By Elaine L. Orr
I think about what rules our lives on different days. For example, when getting ready to move, cardboard boxes and masking tape rule your world. When arriving in a new town, a map (on paper or digital) becomes most important. If you really want to learn your way around start on paper so you can see how locations relate to one another.
Today, I'm thinking about -- literally -- rulers. A teacher at the school where I substitute teach a lot had a box full of old rulers. Most were too tattered to use anymore, but they each had a story.
Take this Strateline Ruler. Several postings indicate this ruler would have been from the 1940s or earlier. Could easily have been in the kind of one-room schoolhouse my dad's family attended in southwestern Missouri.
The two in the next phot0 -- especially the bottom one -- are more like what I used in school in the 1960s. This "newer" one was made made by Falcon in Auburn, Maine. The one pictured has no metal piece at the bottom, which later ones did. Metal was added, so it wouldn't wear out as quickly when hundreds of pencils drew a straight line with the ruler.
The top one was made by Westcott, and is older than any of their vintage products for sale on ebay or etsy. It's very thin, not quite balsa wood thin, but close.
What do you notice about all three of these rulers? No metric numbers.
And then we have the "New Math Ruler." That term will mean little if you're under age 60. If you're older, you were caught in the transition from 'regular math' (think long division) to what my eighth grade teacher called new math. This ruler needed two sides. One had twelve inches -- very familiar.
Then came the back side -- negative numbers and metric! What the heck? In the world I knew, something existed or it didn't. Now numbers could be negative. If you look at the top line of the ruler, there is a zero in the middle and (in half-inch increments) the numbers 1 - 12, positive and negative.