MoMath + Wolfram

Funding for this project generously provided by Overdeck Family Foundation

around 1890

Slate with Numeral Frame

Early childhood educational tool

In the late 19th century, more formal education with defined curricula became a focus for educators in various countries. Tools like abaci and slates, along with games and textbooks, were needed in classrooms to reinforce basic arithmetic lessons. Here, an abacus of 20 beads is combined with a flat piece of slate for an easy all-in-one tool for a student.

Slate with Numeral Frame

Abaci are ancient calculating devices that have been found dating back to ancient Rome and China. Reusable writing surfaces have also been useful tools for messages and instruction for centuries. In the 1870s and 1880s, at least three Americans took out patents for combination slates and abaci. None of these inventions precisely match this object, and no specific information is available about where it was made or used. It seems likely, however, that this slate with numeral frame dates from about the same period.

Artifact dimensions

0.1 cm × 22.3 cm × 22.3 cm

Artifact origin

United States

Current artifact location

National Museum of American History, Washington

Catalog number

MA.335281 (current), 335281 (historical)


MathematicsEducation timeline babylonian-scribe-school-multiplication-tablet Rhind Papyrus Slate with Numeral Frame Derby Museum Hornbook North American Hornbook Wood Hornbook with Abacus Maria Agnesi's Analytical Institutions Midshipman's Cyphering Book Samuel Fay's Cyphering Book Lincoln's Cyphering Book Orville Wright's Arithmetic Textbook New York State Regents Exams in Mathematics

Interactive Content

Computational Explanation

Other Resources

Image Credits

National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution