Ray's New Primary Arithmetic for Young Learners

Ray's New Primary Arithmetic for Young Learners

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Ray's New Primary Arithmetic for Young Learners was an extremely popular children’s arithmetic textbook, part of the Eclectic Educational Series. It contained simple lessons on addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, as well as a section on conversions of units and a review section. The lessons consist largely of mathematical equations and word problems for children to solve. The cover is pale red with ornate black and white designs and a small illustration of a Viking sailing ship.
Joseph Ray (1807-1855) was a trail blazing American author of mathematics textbooks. He attended a district school starting at age 6. As a teen, he attended an academy not far from his family's farm for algebra, geometry, and surveying. By 16, he had become a teacher in Cincinnati, Ohio and when he could afford tuition attended Franklin College at Athens until his money ran out. He returned to teaching until he could afford earning a degree at Medical College of Ohio in Cincinnati, and received an MD at age 22, but returned to teaching in 1831 when he became an instructor in mathematics at Woodward High School, in Cincinnati. His much younger brother Mose also was a mathematician. Joseph Ray also helped colleague William Holmes McGuffey organize a teaching institute, advocated testing and grading in schools as is seen through his test books, and advocated for each state to have a superintendent with instruction standards. He was active in promoting the teaching profession through prolific writing and lectures, but died at the age of 48.
Rays series first appeared in the 1830s and was enormously successful and influential well into the 20th Century. Prior to the 1800's the study of mathematics was generally confined to older students learning trades. Younger students were taught minimum arithmetic and concentrated their studies to reading, writing and rhetoric. These text were designed to include everyday practical math problems such as buying and selling sugar, tea, coffee, bacon, butter, and beer. They also became progressively more difficult.
The American Book Company was an educational book publisher formed in 1890 and based in New York City that specialized in elementary school, secondary school and collegiate-level textbooks. The company was absorbed into D. C. Heath in 1981. Any remaining K-12 assets of the American Book Company were acquired by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 1995.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Ray, Joseph
place made
United States: New York, New York City
Physical Description
red; black; white (outside color)
paper (overall material)
ink (overall material)
fabric (overall material)
overall: 18.3 cm x 12.7 cm x 1 cm; 7 7/32 in x 5 in x 13/32 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Dr. Richard Lodish American School Collection
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Cultural and Community Life: Education
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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