Napier’s Bones

Recently, my husband was reading on Wikipedia about John Napier.  He became very intrigued with Napier’s bones, and decided to see whether we can acquire some.  I was very excited by the prospect as I have been lamenting about not doing much math history in my teaching, and saw this as an opportunity.  It turns out that on amazon there is exactly one version of Napier’s bones available.  So we went ahead and got it, and it arrived today.

Here is what it looks like.


Naturally, as soon as Katie saw it she wanted to know what it was and how she could play with it.  I told her what little I knew, and we started exploring it together.  I have never seen Katie so excited about doing multiplication problems!  We figured out a few equivalent ways of using the gadget for single digit multiplication (it can apparently be used for multi-digit multiplication and other more advanced things, but we haven’t gotten there yet).

To add some randomness to the problems I gave her, Katie had me close my eyes and pick two bones at random – she would then tell me their product.


What a fun way to learn your times tables!


About aofradkin

I enjoy thinking about presenting mathematical concepts to young children in exciting and engaging ways.
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1 Response to Napier’s Bones

  1. David says:

    Maybe you could write an interesting Amazon review. 🙂


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