The Spindle Box
- A wooden box with ten compartments numbered 0 to 9 along the back
and 45 wooden spindles.
Control of Error
- There are 45 spindles. The sum of the numbers 1 to 9 is 45,
so there are exactly the right number of spindles for the
exercise. If a mistake is made, the child will find that he has
either too few or too many spindles when he comes to the last
compartment. He can correct his work independently.
- To see the numerals 0 to 9 in sequence. To associate the
corresponding quantities with the numerals. To introduce the
concept of zero. With the number rods and tactile numerals, the
sequence of numbers was indicated by the segmented rods and the
numerals were loose. In this exercise, the sequence of numbers is
indicated on the box and the quantities are loose.
- 4 years and older
- The teacher and child sit side by side at a table with the box in
front of them. The teacher invites the child to help her take the
spindles out of the box and to lay them on the table in front of the
- When this has been done, the teacher introduces the concept of
zero. She points to the symbol on the back of the box and tells
the child, "This is called zero. This is the way we write zero."
She repeats the name several times. She tells the child, "Zero
means nothing, so we do not put anything in the zero
compartment." She says this while pointing to the
compartment. The teacher points to the numeral "1" and asks the
child how much it is. The child answers "One." The teacher
then asks him to put one spindle in that compartment. The
exercise continues in this way, until every compartment contains the
correct number of spindles. Once the child understands the
exercise, he can continue working independently. The chid can
take the spindle box and do the exercise as often as he likes.
- Occasionally a child has difficulty in accepting that zero is
nothing and is apt to put some spindles in the zero compartment.
The teacher would need to give some further help.