Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Effective But Forgotten Benezet Method of K-8 Education

Some blog followers might be interested in a recent discussion-list post “The Effective But Forgotten Benezet Method of K-8 Education” [Hake (2012)]. The abstract reads:

ABSTRACT: In response to my post “Faculty Try Innovative Teaching Methods, But Don't Stick With It” at, PhysLrnR’s John (Texas) Clement wrote (paraphrased for brevity): “Not sticking with innovative teaching methods is an old story - e.g., the Benezet Method of K-8 education, was yanked because of parental complaints.”

While it's possible that “parental complaints” may have contributed to the ouster in 1938 of Louis Paul Benezet from his superintendency of the Manchester NH Schools, I think the primary reasons that the Benezet Method of K-8 Education is virtually forgotten are:

(a) the failure of the education community to appreciate the significance of the ground-breaking Benezet/Berman experiment of the 1930's;

(b) the failure of universities and colleges to educate teachers capable of implementing Benezet's Method; and

(c) the opposition of those who favor “direct instruction” (i.e., “drill and practice”) in the early grades

To access the complete 21 kB post please click on

Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University
Links to Articles:
Links to SDI Labs:

“. . .I will look primarily at our traditions and practices of early schooling through the age of twelve or so. There is little to come after, whether of joys or miseries, that is not prefigured in these years.”
David Hawkins (2001, p. 3)

“Benezet’s experience that sixth graders with no prior instruction could catch up with students with three years of prior instruction deserves attention. If that is so, one can reasonably claim that the school time spent on arithmetic during grades 3, 4, and 5 is wasted.”
- Andrew Gleason (1986?)

“[Hassler Whitney] opposed formal instruction in arithmetic in the early grades, repeatedly citing a little-known study by Louis P. Benezet (1935a, 1935b, 1936), superintendent of schools in Manchester, New Hampshire, who managed to get several schools In his system to abandon all formal instruction in arithmetic prior to seventh grade. After a year's instruction, the students’ arithmetic test scores were at the level of those of comparable students who had undergone regular instruction. Whitney saw the Benezet study as justifying his argument that too many mathematics teachers were focusing on the passing of tests rather than what he called ‘meaningful goals.’ He was particularly disturbed by national reports calling for more mathematics to be taught earlier in school.”
- International Commission on Mathematical Instruction: ICME (2012)

REFERENCES [URL’s shortened by and accessed on 02 Sept 2012.
Gleason, A.M. 1986?. “Delay the Teaching of Arithmetic ?” unpublished, online as a 12 kB pdf at The late Andrew Gleason was Hollis Chair of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at Harvard University.

Hake, R.R. 2012. “The Effective But Forgotten Benezet Method of K-8 Education,” online on the OPEN AERA-L archives at Post of 02 Sep 2012 15:28:15-0700 to AERA-L and Net-Gold. The abstract and link to the complete post are being transmitted to several discussion lists.

Hawkins, D. 2001. The Roots of Literacy. University of Colorado Press. information at A perceptive review by Helen and Joseph Featherston is at

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