In the 1930's, Louis Bénézet, a superintendent of several schools in New Hampshire made the interesting experiment of teaching no formal arithmetic until grade 6:

In the fall of 1929 I made up my mind to try the experiment of abandoning all formal instruction in arithmetic below the seventh grade and concentrating on teaching the children to read, to reason, and to recite - my new Three R's. And by reciting I did not mean giving back, verbatim, the words of the teacher or of the textbook. I meant speaking the English language. I picked out five rooms - three third grades, one combining the third and fourth grades, and one fifth grade.

He wrote about it in Teaching of Arithmetic I, II, III: The Story of an Experiment, and the results seem very impressive. On the other hand, the findings are described in a style that seems more anecdotal than objective at times, and I would like to know more details.

  1. Did Bénézet or someone else publish more details on the experiment (like the curriculum used, or how teachers were trained for it)? Did someone follow up on what happened with the children that were thought with this method?
  2. Has the experiment been reproduced since then? Was further research done in this direction?
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    $\begingroup$ Great question. I tried to find out more (about 5 years ago) and had no luck. It would be hard now to do it so large-scale, and to have the experimental and control groups so well-matched. Nowadays, anyone making a change this big would probably do lots of other parts of the schoolday differently. $\endgroup$
    – Sue VanHattum
    Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 0:45

1 Answer 1


You can find some further studies that cited the original writing on google scholar: link

Mahajan (PDF) remarks that:

Etta Berman, one of the teachers in the program, studied it for a masters degree (1935); she gave a battery of quantitative tests to 106 control and 82 experimental students in the sixth grade. understatement: ‘The results of this study cast doubt upon whether we are justified in devoting five years to the drilling of formal arithmetic’ (Berman 1935, p. 40).

Despite or because of these results, in 1936 the Manchester school board ended the experiment. Two years later Benezet was forced out of his job, and today few know of his experiment.

The citation for this paper is given as:

Berman, E. (1935). Result of deferring systematic teaching of arithmetic to grade six as disclosed by the deferred formal arithmetic plan at Manchester, New Hampshire (Doctoral dissertation, Boston University).

This is clearly incorrect, since it is not a doctoral dissertation: It is mentioned above as being for a "masters degree," and Boston University lists the thesis here with the correct classification of Ed.M. (i.e., Master's in Education). The paper's 223 page PDF is available in full through archive: link

An excerpt from p. 2:

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    $\begingroup$ Great findings! $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 22:16
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelBächtold I hope you will update with what, if anything, you do using these leads! $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 23:35

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