In a previous post, I described an experiment conducted by L. P. Benezet in the late 1920s and early ‘30s. He altered the curriculum for half of the schoolchildren in the poorest schools in his district so they would not be taught arithmetic until 6th grade. He found that those children, at the beginning of 6th grade, before they had received any arithmetic instruction at all, performed much better than the others on math story problems—the kinds of problems that require common sense applied to numbers. They were even better on those that were the kids in the rich schools, all of whom had been studying arithmetic all along. Of course, they were behind the others in doing calculations (adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing) set up in the usual school way, but by the end of 6th grade they had fully caught up to the others on that and were still ahead on story problems.
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