New math

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New Math is a derisive term for the elementary school mathematics curricula introduced in America in the 1960s. Their emphases were much less on rote memorization of basic sums and products and constant drilling, and more on axiomatic set theory, computations in number bases other than 10 and an understanding of the underlying principles of mathematics.

Many parents complained that they could no longer help their children with their mathematics homework, and the system was later reformed again to provide a compromise between memorization and more abstract techniques. Some have argued that New Math led to the cultural permissiveness of the late 1960s and 1970s, since children became accustomed to not looking to their parents for guidance. Conservatives point to the fact that New Math is alleged to have originated with the Bourbaki school in France as an example of French hostility to American traditions.

Despite this view, New Math was developed in many different forms primarily by American Mathematicians. The most notable of the organizations supporting the curricular change was the School Mathematics Study Group (SMSG), headed by Standford mathematician Edward G. Begle. The SMSG was created by the National Science Foundation after the launch of the Sputnik artificial satellite in 1957. Other notably organizations at the time were the Madison Project, headed by Robert Davis of the University of Illinois, the University of Illinois School Mathematics Project and the University of Maryland Mathematics Project.

Despite the view that the mathematics curricula of the United States changed radically at this time, the reforms were actually small and localized.[1]

See also


  1. Davis, Robert in A History of Mathematics Education in the United States and Canada Chapter 15