Grandma's Arithmetical Game

In the mid-19th century, Americans began to manufacture special playing cards for teaching. The New York City firm of McLoughlin Brothers made playing cards for geography instruction from 1860, and was selling cards for arithmetic instruction by 1875. This product of the company, Grandma's Arithmetical Game, is somewhat later.
This example includes 118 cards, numbered from 1 to 119 (one card is missing). Each card has a word problem written out on it. The other side is plain blue. One player served as teacher and the others as scholars. The teacher mixed all the cards and dealt out a stack of at least six cards to each scholar. The scholar to the left of the teacher then turned over the top card and read the question on it. If the scholar couldn’t answer the question, he or she passed it to the scholar on his left. The card continued around the table until someone answered the question. If a scholar did this, he or she claimed it. If not, the card went around to the teacher, who read the answer from the book. The teacher then asked the second scholar to the left to read the question on his or her top card, and play proceeded as before. Once all the questions had been answered, the scholar with the largest number of cards was the winner.
This was one of six “Grandma’s Games.” The others had questions relating to general knowledge, geography, riddles, the Old Testament of the Bible, and the New Testament. According to the manufacturer: “Each game is complete in itself. The Series affords a means of conveying to children in the form of play, a vast amount of desirable information. All six games should be in every household.” The games cost 30 cents apiece.
The cards and instruction booklet fit into a cardboard box. A drawing glued to the top of the box shows a schoolboy in a ruffled shirt and cap with slate and textbook, in front of a blackboard with several arithmetic problems written on it. A mark on the lid of the box reads: GRANDMA’S (/) ARITHMETICAL (/) GAME; 4610; BOOKS AND GAMES (/) EDUCATE AMUSE (/) McLOUGLIN (/) EST. 1828.
According to Alexander and Williams, the game portion of McLoughlin Brothers was sold to Milton Bradley in 1920.
Bill Alexander and Anne D. Williams, The Game Catalogs: U.S. Games Through 1950, Dresher, PA: American Game Collectors Association, 1997, pp. 64 to 68.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1915
McLoughlin Brothers
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: 2.3 cm x 16 cm x 22 cm; 29/32 in x 6 5/16 in x 8 21/32 in
place made
United States: New York
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Learning Arithmetic
Arithmetic Teaching
Science & Mathematics
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Learning Arithmetic
Arithmetic Teaching
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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