Educational Games

By the twentieth century, many Americans embraced the idea that children should spend most of their time at play or in school, rather than working outside the home. Toys that encouraged learning—including learning arithmetic—acquired special status. These ranged from card games to moveable toys.

By the end of the 19th century, many Americans had separate places for work and private life. Most children attended school for several years before going to work in an office or factory.
Description
By the end of the 19th century, many Americans had separate places for work and private life. Most children attended school for several years before going to work in an office or factory. The emphasis on the home as a domestic sphere, the expansion of childhood, and such other factors as lower costs for manufactured goods encouraged the development of children’s games. Some amusements, such as playing cards, had long been condemned in some religious traditions. To reach children in the home, some makers introduced special instructive card games. In 1896, executives of the United States Playing Card Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, formed a separate company, The Fireside Game Company, to produce games like Fraction Play.
Fraction Play, which teaches the addition and subtraction of fractions, consists of 52 paper cards, each marked with an irreducible fraction. The backs of the cards are identical and read “Knowledge is Power.” The cards are stored in a cardboard box, with instructions pasted to the inside of the lid. The fractions are 1/2, thirds, fourths, sixths, eighths, tenths, twelfths, and twentieths.
According to the instructions, players were dealt cards, and other cards were placed face up on the table. A player sought to add a fraction in his hand to one or more on the table to obtain 1 or 2, or to subtract a fraction in the hand from the total of one or more cards on the table to reach zero. Points were awarded for using the most cards, using twentieths, using the cards 7/8, 2/3, 11/12, and 19/20, and taking all the cards from the table in one play.
Fraction Play was copyrighted by The Fireside Game Company in 1896 and sold for 25 cents. The company also sold at least 15 other games on topics ranging from ordinary arithmetic to geography to botany to politics. These are listed on a 53rd card in the deck. By 1901 The Fireside Game Company had changed its name to The Cincinnati Game Company. That company introduced the games “Addition and Subtraction,” “Multiplication and Division,” “Fractions,” and “Constructive Geometry” in a series of “educational games” intended for classroom use. The mathematical games in the series were designed by Cincinnati educators and edited by David Eugene Smith of Columbia University. By about 1908, the need for a dummy company selling educational cards apparently had passed. The U.S. Playing Card Company sold educational games (though not Fractions) under its own name.
References:
Bill Alexander, “Featured Company: Fireside and Cincinnati Game Companies,” Game Times, Fall/Winter 1987, pp.132–133.
Will C. James, “Educational Games,” Inland Educator and Indiana School Journal, vol. 3 (1902), pp. 267–269.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
1896
maker
Fireside Game Company
ID Number
2009.0016.01
accession number
2009.0016
catalog number
2009.0016.01
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.
Description
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.
Reference:
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.
date made
ca 1915
maker
McLoughlin Brothers
ID Number
2003.0048.01
catalog number
2003.0048.01
accession number
2003.0048
During the 1950s, the number of children in the United States grew rapidly. Several manufacturers introduced toys intended to communicate elementary ideas. The Add-A-Count scale, made by Child Guidance Toys of New York City, well illustrates this trend.
Description
During the 1950s, the number of children in the United States grew rapidly. Several manufacturers introduced toys intended to communicate elementary ideas. The Add-A-Count scale, made by Child Guidance Toys of New York City, well illustrates this trend. The red, white, and blue plastic toy is a balance with weights in the form of numbers. The weight of the weight is proportional to the size of the number. Hence a "3" on one arm will balance a "2" and a "1" on the other. There are two weights for each digit from 1 to 5 and one weight for each digit from 6 to 9, making a total of 14 weights. The weights and scale fit in a paper box, which has on it a drawing of a girl playing with the toy. In the 1960s, the toy was sold by instrument dealers like Edmund Scientific Company of Barrington, New Jersey. It sold for $1.00—by 1968 the price was $1.50.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
1950s
maker
Child Guidance Toys
ID Number
1988.0155.01
accession number
1988.0155
catalog number
1988.0155.01
This game includes 40 cards marked with a five-by-five array of one and two digit numbers on both sides. An additional 35 problem cards (each divisible into three parts, but undivided) show a total of 100 addition problems on one side and 100 subtraction problems on the other.
Description
This game includes 40 cards marked with a five-by-five array of one and two digit numbers on both sides. An additional 35 problem cards (each divisible into three parts, but undivided) show a total of 100 addition problems on one side and 100 subtraction problems on the other. Numerous red flat square markers are used in play. Players can do either subtraction problems or addition problems.
The rules are like those of bingo. A problem card is shown, players figure out the correct answer and, if the number is on their game card, cover the corresponding space. The first player to cover five spaces in a straight row - across, up-and-down, or diagonally - calls out "Quizmo." Answers are checked against the answers on the problem cards that have been used. If they are correct, the player wins the round; if not ,play continues. The first player to win a set number of rounds wins the game.
In addition to the pieces described, the game has two cards with basic addition and subtraction facts, a card with playing directions, a card listing the parts to the game, and a card listing "4 steps to mastery of basic facts." The cards also could be used as flash cards.
A mark on the cardboard box reads: QUIZMO (/) THE FUN GAME OF (/) ARITHMETIC (/) ADDITION AND SUBTRACTION; MILTON BRADLEY (/) COMPANY (/) SPRINGFIELD (/) MASSACHUSETTS. Another mark there reads: MADE IN U. S. A. Still another mark reads: COPYRIGHT 1958 BY MILTON BRADLEY COMPANY.
According to trademark records, QUIZMO as a term for a board game was first used in commerce in 1949 and registered in 1954 by Alice R. Huff of Concord, California. The trademark was renewed in 1974 and has since expired.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1960
maker
Milton Bradley Company
ID Number
2005.0055.05
catalog number
2005.0055.05
accession number
2005.0055
In the early 1960s, the Chicago firm of Playskool introduced this educational toy for children three to six years old, seeking to give them an early familiarity with numbers.
Description
In the early 1960s, the Chicago firm of Playskool introduced this educational toy for children three to six years old, seeking to give them an early familiarity with numbers. It has two rows of relatively large rotating wooden rectangular blocks, each with a row of square rotating wooden blocks below. The larger blocks have problems in simple addition written on them, the smaller ones answers. The problems and correct answers are written in the same color of paint. The blocks move on metal rods that are attached at top and bottom to a frame. The frame is supported at the back by a collapsible metal stand. The frame is painted with a pattern of bricks on the side and a roof at the top.
A contemporary advertisement indicates that the toy cost $3.19.
Reference:
Jordan Marsh Company , [Advertisement], The Boston Globe, November 4, 1962, p. E5.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1962
maker
Playskool
ID Number
2005.0055.03
catalog number
2005.0055.03
accession number
2005.0055
For decades, teachers drilled American school children using flash cards that gave simple arithmetic problems. The advent of inexpensive electronic calculators in the 1970s made it possible to do much routine arithmetic automatically.
Description
For decades, teachers drilled American school children using flash cards that gave simple arithmetic problems. The advent of inexpensive electronic calculators in the 1970s made it possible to do much routine arithmetic automatically. To teach school children the meaning of basic operations, new devices were introduced, including this form of flash card. In the 24 Game, the answer to the problem is always 24. A player’s task is to find out how numbers can be combined in simple arithmetic operations to reach this result.
According to the instructions, players select 12 to 24 cards to place in a pile at the center of a table. A player who sees a solution to the top card touches it. If his or her solution is correct, the player wins the card. Once it is taken, the next card is in play. The combinations on the cards are classed as easy (one white dot), medium (two red dots) or difficult (three gold dots). Once all the cards have been played, players add up the point value of their cards, with one point for each easy card, two for medium cards, etc. The original set reportedly had 24, 48, and 24 of these kinds of cards. This example has only 14 easy cards, 34 medium ones, and 23 difficult ones remaining.
There are also two flat paper sleeves, each of which holds a card. The sleeve covers one quadrant. When cards in sleeves are used, the goal of the game becomes finding one number that can make 24 on all of the cards (ignoring the numbers covered by the sleeve). A complete set includes four sleeves. This set also includes an instruction leaflet.
A mark on the top of the box reads: 24 (/) GAME (/) SINGLE DIGITS (/) EDITION (/) Builds Fast Minds TM. A mark on the side of the box and on the instructions reads: Suntex International, Inc., 118 North Third St., Easton, PA 18042, [copyright symbol] 1989, 1993, 1996. Another mark on the side of the box reads: MADE IN THE USA. A mark on the bottom of the box reads: #3397.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
1996
maker
Suntex International Inc.
ID Number
2008.0038.01
accession number
2008.0038
catalog number
2008.0038.01
For decades, teachers drilled American school children using flash cards that posed simple arithmetic problems. The advent of inexpensive electronic calculators in the 1970s made it possible to do much routine arithmetic automatically.
Description
For decades, teachers drilled American school children using flash cards that posed simple arithmetic problems. The advent of inexpensive electronic calculators in the 1970s made it possible to do much routine arithmetic automatically. Flash cards took new forms.
This set of cards teaches addition and subtraction, apparently to individual students. It consists of a deck of 42 cards. Each card is printed on both sides with two circles divided into four quadrants. A digit is printed in two quadrants of each circle(for the easy cards) or three quadrants (for the medium and difficult cards). There are 12 easy cards marked with a single dot (five of these cards are identical to five others); 16 medium cards (eight identical to eight others), which have two dots, 14 difficult cards (six identical to six others), which have three dots; and a cover card. The playing cards also have a single digit marked along the top and bottom edge. The goal of the game is to choose a set of cards of a given level of difficulty, quickly point to one of the circles, and explain how the numbers in the quadrants of that circle can be added and subtracted to produce the digit along the edge. Once a student could accomplish this correctly within certain time limits, he or she “jumped” to another level and received an award.
A mark on the cover card reads: 24 (/) GAME (/) ADD/SUBTRACT (/) JUMPING LEVELS TM 1 to 3. Another reads: SUNTEX (/) INTERNATIONAL INC. Another reads: [copyright sign] 1995. A paper tag attached to the front of the cover card reads: Benjy.
According to Robert Sun, the designer of the 24 Game, these are “mini-cards,” interim take-home cards that were distributed 24 to a pack. It seems likely that this represents most of two packs.
The example was obtained by the donor at Georgetown Day School in the period 1996–1999.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
1996
maker
Suntex International Inc.
ID Number
2008.0038.03
accession number
2008.0038
catalog number
2008.0038.03
This deck contains cards of two types. One type has on each side a circle divided into four quadrants, with a single-digit number in each of these quadrants. By a series of simple operations, the digits in each circle can be combined to produce the number 24.
Description
This deck contains cards of two types. One type has on each side a circle divided into four quadrants, with a single-digit number in each of these quadrants. By a series of simple operations, the digits in each circle can be combined to produce the number 24. The second type of card has, on one side, two circles divided into four quadrants. On each of the easy cards, two quadrants have a single digit. On each of the medium and difficult cards, three quadrants have a digit. A number is printed in the margin. Players are to determine a series of operations on all the digits in the quadrants of one circle that will yield the number in the margin. The reverse of each of these cards has printed on it two numbers with a common factor. All cards of this type are marked “ADVANTA”.
The deck has 15 easy cards, each marked with a single dot; 16 medium cards, which have two dots; 16 difficult cards, which have three dots; and a cover card. The goal of the game apparently is to choose a set of cards of given level of difficulty and quickly solve the problem on it. Once a student could accomplish this correctly within certain time limits, he or she “jumped” to another level and received an award.
A mark on the cover card reads: 24 (/) GAME (/) MULTIPLY/DIVIDE (/) JUMPING LEVELS TM 4 to 7. Another mark there readsL SUNTEX (/) INTERNATIONAL INC. A third maker’s mark reads: [copyright sign] 1995. A paper tag on the cover card reads: Benjy.
According to Robert Sun, the designer of the 24 Game, these are “mini-cards,” interim take-home cards that were distributed 24 to a pack. This may represent two packs, but they are not duplicates.
The example was obtained by the donor at Georgetown Day School in the period 1996–1999.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
1996
maker
Suntex International Inc.
ID Number
2008.0038.04
accession number
2008.0038
catalog number
2008.0038.04

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