I find this cartoon from Punch
(Aug. 8, 1917) quite intruguing. The caption reads:
Betty (after flash of lightning): "COUNT QUICKLY, JENNY! MAKE IT AS FAR AWAY AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN."
As I see it, the children have learned a formula about determining the distance of a storm, and because the formula involves chanting numbers, it has taken on mystical qualities. Jenny acts as the shaman, besought by Betty to repel the storm with her incantation. Betty will presumably count backward, to reverse and thereby neutralize the machinations of the storm. The cartoon was no doubt intended as an easy laugh, but I see quite a depth of implications!