the 3 R’s

reading, writing, and arithmetic (school subjects)


The 3 R’s = Lesen, Schreiben, Rechnen als die drei Grunddisziplinen der Schule



“With teachers given more and more responsibility for teaching social skills and life skills as well as THE 3 R’s, not everything can be finished during a normal day.”

Claire Batten - BBC World Service

Did you

the three R’s
noun phrase

- the basic subjects of reading, writing, and arithmetic that are taught in school to young children



These three skills are alluded to in St. Augustine’s Confessions: Latin: …legere et scribere et numerare discitur ‘learning to read, and write, and do arithmetic’.

In the United States, during the 18th century, the curriculum in the elementary schools of the New England colonies was summed up as the “four Rs” - Reading, ‘Riting, “Rithmetic”, and Religion.

The actual phrase is sometimes attributed to a speech given by Sir William Curtis around 1807 when he was Lord Mayor of London. In any event, the term was picked up and first appeared in print in “The Lady’s Magazine” for 1818.

Nowadays, the field of sustainability offers an alternative trio for the three R’s shortform: “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle”


In 1999, the author Douglas Adams remarked: “The World Wide Web is the only thing I know of whose shortened form takes three times longer to say than what it’s short for.”

SMUGGLE OWAD into a conversation today, say something like:

“As a young child, which of the THE 3 R’s did you have the most trouble with at school?”

HERZLICHEN DANK to all readers helping me keep OWAD alive with single or monthly donations at:

Paul Smith

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