The lack of instruction in arithmetic is shown by the experience of pupil John Walters who admitted that it was during the Christmas holidays at the age of fifteen that he picked up from his younger brother my first insight into mathematics, and all the teaching I had.

In the early 1600s, the schoolmaster John Brinsley based his belief in the importance of boys having a understanding of arithmetic on the knowledge that it was common for boys entering university not to know how to tell the number of pages, sections and chapters in their books.