The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Practical Studies in Apperception.

by T. G. Rooper, ESQ., M.A., H.M.I.
Volume 4, 1893/94, pgs. 170-175

[Thomas Godolphin Rooper, 1847-1903, was an inspector of schools and personal friend of Charlotte Mason; much of his writing was for her P.N.E.U. meetings. His essay "Lyonesse" describes his time as a student at the Harrow boarding school. After he died (of spinal tuberculosis at the age of 56), Mason wrote a chapter in his honor which appears in her book, "Formation of Character," vol 5 of her series. He never married.]

It is thought that some of the readers of the Parents' Review may be able and willing to co-operate in psychological research bearing directly upon the practical work of education.

Those who undertake such research (for which parents have special opportunities) will not only assist students of philosophy, but also throw light upon methods of imparting knowledge to children.

As a guide to those who are ready to join in such an undertaking, Messrs. Walton and Rooper have forwarded us the subjoined series of questions.

It has been thought best to confine the present inquiry to intellectual training, but it is hoped that in a later number of the Review a second series may be submitted dealing with moral education and the training of character.


(1) It is important that each answer springs from special observations made in connection with the particular point considered.
(2) It is recommended that each observer should confine his attention to one, or at most two, particular points at a time.
(3) A careful record should be kept of all observations or experiments at the time of making them. The collected results should be forwarded to J. Walton, Esq., Yorkshire College, Leeds, before 30th of June.
(4) Each return should state:--
      (a) The number of children observed.
      (b) Sex, age, and character of home.
      (c) The dates on which the observations were made.
      (d) The dates on which the observations were recorded.
      (e) Nothing but what is actually observed as distinguished from inferences and corrected statements of what the observer believed the child to mean.

N.B. (1) Great care should be taken that the children are not aware they are being observed.
(2) It is the normal action of child-mind that is being studied, and not the abnormal and remarkable. The abnormal should only be recorded as throwing light on the normal, and should be distinctly noted as abnormal.
(3) The questions which children spontaneously ask about an object presented to them are good guides to the student of apperception.


I. Elementary Conceptions of Number.

(1) In what proportion do children picture in their minds the numbers 1, 2, 3, &c.?
(a) As mere symbols, or (b) as groups of separate objects (balls, cubes, & c.)? For instance, in adding six and three do they add by an effort of verbal memory, or do they picture to themselves at once nine objects in two groups of six and three and give the result as an act of inner perception?

(2) When number is taught through mere exercise of verbal memory, can children get an immediate grasp of the actual nature of a number? For example, from knowing that six and one make seven, can they get an immediate intuition that four and three make seven, that five and two make seven, and so on; or must each of these additions be acquired by a separate act of verbal memory?

(3) Again, when learnt by verbal memory, is subtraction immediately recognized as inverse addition? For example, from the knowledge that six and one make seven, can children immediately see that one from seven leaves six, or must that be a separate acquisition of the verbal memory?

(4) Do children more easily arrive at the conception of the nature of number (as distinguished from counting) by dealing with a promiscuous variety of objects, such as apples, pebbles, panes of glass, legs of animals, &c., or by confining their attention to a series of objects of the same kind, such as balls in a frame, cubes, or the bricks of Tillich's Brick Box? (Tillich's Bricks present the idea of number as continuous and not discrete; thus two is not two bricks, but a block the size of two bricks, and so with three, four, and the rest up to ten, number being thus represented by length.)

[Tillich's Brick Box. Wooden box with sliding lid, 10cm x 3.5cm x 12cm. Contains wooden sticks with 1cm cubes marked on them: 3 10cm Sticks. 4 5cm Sticks. 2 9cm Sticks. 5 4cm Sticks. 1 8cm Stick. 8 3cm Sticks. 1 7cm Stick. 11 2cm Sticks. 1 6cm Stick. 23 1cm Cubes.]

(5) When children learn to count (say from 1 to 20) before they study the analysis of a number (as in Sonnenschein's Number Pictures, Tillich's Brick Box, or Neuman's Eclipse Frame), is it a help or a hindrance to their comprehension of number and power of computation?

II. Object Teaching, or Training in Perception.

(1) When a new object is presented to the eyes of children, in what order do the attributes colour, form, movement, and size generally arrest attention? Do children differ in this respect? Is the order affected by the striking nature of any of these four characteristics?--e.g., bright colour as distinguished from dull, exceptionally large or small size, or form unusual to the children?

(2) When a new object is presented to the touch, in what order do children recognize attributes of hardness, temperature, roughness, and weight?

(3) When a child does not know at once to what class a novel object belongs, and cannot at once apperceive it, what kind of attributes appear to guide him in his attempt to classify it? For instance, a child saw for the first time a pot of ferns; being asked what it was, he replied, "A pot of green feathers." In this case the child apperceived the object by means of the attributes of size, shape, and flexibility.

N.B. It is clear that a wrong apperception is often more instructive than a right one to observers of mental growth.

(4) How early in life is the association formed between visual and tactual qualities? How soon, for instance, can a child say, by merely looking at an object, that it is hard or soft, rough or smooth, warm or cold, &c.? Are certain of these associations formed earlier than others, and if so, in what order?

(5) Does a child from the first appear to estimate with gradually increasing accuracy magnitude by means of a visual standard? For instance, can a child tell by the eye alone that a particular apple is larger than an orange placed beside it, or that a two-cube block in Tillich's Bricks is bigger than a one-cube block? Can they at a slightly later age recognize visually how many cubes are contained in one of the longer blocks? Can a child estimate visually at a still later age the actual size of an object a varying distances? If so, does he appear to use a visual or a tactual standard? When do children begin to estimate with fair correctness the relative distances between objects--for instance, that object A is twice as far from B as B is from C? Is there any difference in the accuracy of this estimation according as the distances are vertical, horizontal, or oblique? Is there a further difference when one distance belongs to one of these classes, and not to another?

(6) Weight.--Is any difference observable between children in respect of their power of estimating whether one object is heavier or lighter than another? Is the delicacy of discrimination greater when the two objects are held simultaneously one in either hand, or when they are held successively in the same hand?

(7) Colour.--Do the children vary much in their power of discriminating shades of colour, and how rapidly does this power increase with age?

(8) Shape.--Child's power, according to age, of recognizing, without counting (immediately), the number of sides in a given regular polygon? How does the size of the polygon affect the accuracy of the estimation?

(9) Novelty in familiarity.

      (a) What kind of objects are found to be more attractive to children than others? What relative proportions of novelty and familiarity appear to have the greatest attractive power?

      (b) Of its own accord, does any child show power of taking interest in those attributes of an object which are practically quite unfamiliar to it? For instance, does a child take interest (of its own accord, and unaided by questioning, &c.) in the machinery of a watch as anything more than a collection of moving and sounding objects?

(10) Continuity of attention. What kind of things do children grow tired of observing quickest? What kind of thing slowest? What variations in these respects, arising out of age or subject, are observed? Give time measurements.

III. Memory.

(1) Test for verbal memory. Give evidence of exceptionally strong and weak powers of verbal memory as tested by

      (1) the children attempting to reproduce orally a random series of figures as 82,573 read out once (with an equal pause before the utterance of each figure to avoid aid by rhythm).

      (2) Where children show varying powers, to what extent does the variation appear (as by the way in which they utter the series) to depend upon their having mentally grouped the figures into twos and threes, &c.? If they thus group the figures, in which way do they do it?

      (3) Exhibit a row of three to a dozen (according to age) coloured squares of paper, and quickly withdraw it as soon as the children have had time to recognise the colours. Note what varying powers they show of stating in their original order the names of the colours seen.
(b) Does any particular order or class of order seen easier to remember than another? Have you any evidence of progress made in this exercise in respect of (a) quickness of eye, or (b) retentiveness.

(4) Is the spelling of a word learnt quicker by being continuously present to the eye for a brief period or intermittently during the same period as when written on a slowly revolving roller?

(5) When a simple object like an apple has been presented to a class without comment, and has been withdrawn again after time has been allowed for observation, what evidence have you of varying power in the children to answer questions as to colour, shape, comparative size, and special features?

IV. Miscellaneous.

(1) Geography.
      (a) What kind of facts do children remember most readily?
      (b) Since connected facts are more readily retained than disconnected, what ways of connecting them secure their remembrance most effectively?
      (c) What effect have pictorial illustrations in aiding the connection of the fact with fact; for instance, a picture of the Tyne with vessels being laden with coal?
      (d) In illustrating a geographical fact by an historical one, in case the historical fact is entirely new to the child, and not connected with its historical knowledge, so that no apperception is possible, is it found that the mere association of the two facts tends to the better remembrance of both or either?

(2) History.
      (a) What is the best way of first approaching the study of the history of one's own country, so as to give the children a working conception of State and Government? Can you give instances of mistakes made by children taught on the usual plan which indicate a want of apprehension of these two essential points?
      (b) Have you any light to throw on the results of teaching history (i.) as a continuous story from the beginning, and (ii.) in disconnected scenes, incidents, biographies, &c.?
      (c) At what age are children able to apperceive historical facts--that is, to get an intelligent grasp of the subject?
      (d) What means do you find most efficacious in giving children an idea of historical perspective?
      (e) What evidence can you adduce of the varying powers of children to present to their minds historical and geographical facts in the form of a picture--that is, to visualize them? What helps or what hindrances have you found most operative in this respect?

Proofread by LNL, July, 2023