Saturday, March 1, 2014

MATH QUIZ...1817

It’s one of my favorite books: The Scholar’s Arithmetic; or, Federal Accountant, by Daniel Adams, M.B., published in 1817.
          It’s hardcover, leather-bound. The corners are rounded, battered, there’s scratching in the cover leathers and stains on most of the pages, but, still, it’s one of my favorites.
So...arithmetic in 1817.
How tough can that be? I thought, thumbing through the chapters.
It starts out easy enough: simple addition, subtraction, multiplication and division...the first forty-odd pages I can handle with ease, but in Section II, things get tricky.
Single Rule of Three, Double Rule of Three.
Huh? I haven’t a clue.
How about something called Reduction Descending? “Multiply the highest denomination by that number which it takes of the next less to make one of that greater; so continue to do till you have brought it as low as your question requires.”
Do what? I thought; it has something to do with reducing pounds, shillings, pence, etc. into farthings.
Or changing moidores into shillings and then dollars.

And there are pages of tables:
          Table for Reducing New-England Currency to Federal Money
          Table for Reducing New-York Currency to Federal Money
          Table for Reducing the Currencies of the Several United States to Federal Money, which has columns for New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Virginia to New-York and North Carolina currency.
          From shillings, pence and farthings to dollars, cents and mills.

 Here’s a little quiz for you to try:

1. How many steps of 2 feet 5 inches each, will it require a man to take, travelling from Leominster to Boston, it being 43 miles?

2. A wall is 36 feet high, and a ditch before it is 27 feet wide; what is the length of a ladder, that will reach to the top of the wall from the opposite side of the ditch?

3. A man died leaving 3 sons, to whom he bequeathed his estate in the following manner, viz. to the eldest he gave 184 dollars, to the second 155 dollars, and to the third 96 dollars; but when his debts were paid, there were but 184 dollars left; What is each one’s proportion of his estate?

4. If the height of a room painted by 12ft. 4in. and the compass 84ft. 11in. How many square yards does it contain?

5. What must I give for 3Cwt. 2qrs. 13lb. of cheese at 7 cts. per lb.?

And, for you logic lovers, a question under the section called Pleasing and Diverting Questions:
A countryman having a Fox, a Goose, and a peck of corn, in his journey, came to a river, where it so happened that he could carry but one over at a time. Now as no two were to be left together that might destroy each other; so he was at his wits end how to dispose of them; for, says he, tho’ the corn can’t eat the goose, nor the goose eat the fox; yet the fox can eat the goose, and the goose eat the corn. The question is, how he must carry them over that they may not devour each other?

Definitely “diverting,” but I’m not so sure about the “pleasing” part.

Send your answers by posting a comment – I’ll let you know how you fare!

And, by the way, good luck.


  1. Oh dear I really should print your questions out and share them tomorrow at our family fun day! Kind of a dare if you want to expand your thinking caps kind of thing. I have a few old school books, and even a learn to type, and it's amazing they are very complex and harder than most would think! But fun to read! You know you've given me an idea for a post! Hehehehe!

  2. I'm going to answer the countryman question. First he takes the goose over. Then he goes back and takes the corn over, but when he returns to get the fox he carries the goose back with him, leaving the goose while he takes the fox over, (to where the corn is) and then leaving the fox with the corn, he goes back for the goose to bring back over. The end. All lives are saved, and tummies empty!

    1. MY FIRST ENTRY -- Thanks, Karen! Secretly, I think the logic problem is the easiest of them all. Let me know how your family members handle some of these!

    2. I sure will. It should be fun! Okay since the fox, goose and corn was so easy, I'll try one more now. My first thought for # 2 is well 36 feet of course, since it reads: the 27 feet WIDE ditch is only before (front of wall) assuming of course that the ground is level on the other side of the wall! Common sense or trickery? That will be my oldest son's first question, I bet.

  3. Okay Deb my kids showed me up! #2 ladder should be 45 feet (via Pythagorean Theorem) lots of college pays !