The three Rs

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The three "R"s (as in the letter R)[1] refers to three basic skills taught in schools: reading, writing and arithmetic (usually said as "reading, writing, and 'rithmetic"). The phrase appeared in print as a space-filler in "The Lady's Magazine" for 1818. While it is sometimes attributed to a speech given by Sir William Curtis circa 1795, the publication The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction casts doubt on this.[2] Since its original creation, many others have used the term to describe other triples (see Other uses).

Origin and meaning[edit]

The skills themselves are alluded to in St. Augustine's Confessions (caput 13): Latin: nam illas primas, ubi legere et scribere et numerare discitur ('for those first, where to read, and to write, and ciphering is being learned').[3] 'Ciphering' translates differently and can be defined as 'transposing', 'arguing', 'reckoning', a 'secretive method of writing', or 'numerating'.

The phrase "the three Rs" may have originated in a speech made by Sir William Curtis in 1795, but this origination is disputed in the publication The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, Volume 5.[4][5] An extended modern version of the three Rs consists of the "functional skills of literacy, numeracy and ICT".[6]

The educationalist Louis P. Bénézet preferred "to read", "to reason", "to recite", adding, "by reciting I did not mean giving back, verbatim, the words of the teacher or of the textbook. I meant speaking the English language."[7]

Other uses[edit]

More recent meanings of "the three Rs" are:

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Obsolete Skill Set: The 3 Rs — Literacy and Letteracy in the Media Ages
  2. ^ The Mirror of Literature Amusement and Instruction, Volume 5 by John Timbs, J. Limbered, 1825
  3. ^ Chapter 13, Book 1, Faculty.georgetown.edu
  4. ^ "the three Rs." idioms.thefreedictionary.com. The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. 2003, 1997. The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust
  5. ^ The Mirror of Literature Amusement and Instruction, Volume 5 by John Timbs, J. Limbered, 1825
  6. ^ Functional Skills
  7. ^ L. P. Benezet, "The Teaching of Arithmetic I, II, III: The Story of an Experiment," Journal of the National Education Association, Volume 24(8): 241-244 (November 1935)