Early Teaching Machine of B. F. Skinner

Description
In the years following World War II, American school enrollments boomed. One parent, the psychologist and Harvard University faculty member B. F. Skinner, noted that students might benefit from machines that gave extra opportunities for drill. Skinner designed this instrument to teach elementary arithmetic.
The wooden box has a black plastic knob in front. The hinged lid extends over the middle of the top, and covers a punched paper tape. A window in this lid reveals one problem at a time. In front of the window is a set of six levers that allows one to set a number in a hole, to answer a question.
A mark on the lid of the machine reads: TEACHING MACHINE EXHIBITED IN MARCH, 1954 (/) AT THE UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH [/] CONFERENCE ON “PSYCHOLOGY AND THE BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES”.
Compare to other Skinner teaching machines, 1984.1069.01 and MA*335539.
Reference:
Alexander Rutherford, Beyond the Box: B. F. Skinner’s Technology of Behavior from Laboratory to Life, 1950s–1970s, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009, esp. pp. 26-33.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
teaching machine
date made
1954
maker
Skinner, B. F.
Physical Description
wood (box material)
paper (tape material)
plastic (knob material)
metal (mechanism material)
Measurements
overall: 15.3 cm x 33 cm x 33.5 cm; 6 1/32 in x 13 in x 13 3/16 in
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Cambridge
ID Number
1981.0997.01
accession number
1981.0997
catalog number
1981.0997.01
subject
Arithmetic Teaching
Mathematics
Psychology
Science & Mathematics
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Arithmetic Teaching
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of B. F. Skinner
Additional Media

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