Matt and Attean are initially forced into a working relationship in chapter 6 when Attean's grandfather, Saknis, insists that Attean allow Matt to teach him English. Eventually their relationship evolves into a friendship. The learning begins with Matt attempting to teach Attean the alphabet in chapter 7. In chapter 8, Matt decides to skip the alphabet because learning it frustrates Attean. He then moves on to reading the story of Robinson Crusoe to him.
In chapter 9, Matt asks Attean how he killed a rabbit without a gun. Attean shows Matt how to make a simple trap from a tree root. In the same chapter, the reader learns that Matt has now been successful in teaching Attean the alphabet. Attean continues to learn to read as Matt continues the story of Crusoe.
In chapter 12, Attean teaches Matt to use a bow and arrow and makes one for him. In chapter 13, Attean begins to teach Matt about the signs the various tribes leave in the forest to mark their territory. By chapter 14, the Crusoe story is finished. Matt then begins to teach Attean the stories of the Bible, the only other book that Matt has. Chapters 15 and 16 are turning points in the story as Matt begins to use some of the Indian skills Attean has taught him. Matt learns to use a bow so well that he kills a rabbit. In chapter 17, Attean teaches Matt about daily Indian life through a visit to his village where he learns that the men, women and children all have very distinct roles.