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Colburn's First Lessons. Intellectual Arithmetic Upon the Inductive Method of Instruction by Warren Colburn

Colburn's First Lessons. Intellectual Arithmetic Upon the Inductive Method of Instruction by Warren Colburn

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Warren Colburn (1792-1833) first published a version of this path breaking arithmetic textbook in 1821, the year after he graduated from Harvard College. The text bore the title An Arithmetic on the Plan of Pestalozzi, with Some Improvements. A revision and an extension appeared the following year, and by 1826 the volume had proved sufficiently popular to be known by the name of its author, the title being Colburn's First Lessons. Intellectual Arithmetic, Upon the Inductive Method of Instruction. This copy of the text, copyrighted in 1833 (the year Colburn died), was published in 1847 by William J. Reynolds Company of Boston. The volume has stiff paper covers held together by a like brown calfskin spine. The front has title and publication information and the back “RECOMMENDATIONS” from readers. Additional advertisements are included at the front on the book. Script on the front flyleaf gives the name of the student, "Julia Giddings / Mystic / Conn." and on the inside back cover "Julia Ann Giddings", both in ink.
Colburn, like the Swiss educator J.H. Pestalozzi, firmly believed that young girls and boys could and should learn do arithmetic in their heads (intellectually, as his title put it) even before they learned to write. Most previous formal arithmetic instruction in the U.S., including that Colburn had received at district schools in Massachusetts and from a private tutor, focused on working problems needed in trade. Those with the resources to attend these schools learned to write out problems by rote in handwritten cipher or cypher books.
Colburn did sufficiently well to obtain employment in factories in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and then entered Harvard College in 1816. Both as a student and after graduation, Colburn taught, particularly in mathematics. He was one of the founders of the American Institute of Instruction, which trained young teachers prior to the Civil War and the later development of normal school training of teachers. He also gave popular lectures and published other textbooks. in written arithmetic, in algebra, and in reading and grammar. None of these proved as popular as the First Lessons. In 1824, Colburn resumed his career in manufacturing, this time in the mills of Lowell, Massachusetts.
William J. Reynolds & Co. were Boston publishers in the 1840’s and 1850’s.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date published
Colburn, Warren
place published
United States: Massachusetts, Boston
place owned
United States: Connecticut, Mystic
Physical Description
leather (binding material)
paper (covers; text block material)
ink (covers; text material)
thread (binding material)
overall: 5/8 in x 4 in x 6 1/4 in; 1.5875 cm x 10.16 cm x 15.875 cm
ID Number
Education, elementary
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Domestic Life
Women Teaching Math
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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