The New Math: A Political History

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9780226184968: The New Math: A Political History
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An era of sweeping cultural change in America, the postwar years saw the rise of beatniks and hippies, the birth of feminism, and the release of the first video game. It was also the era of new math. Introduced to US schools in the late 1950s and 1960s, the new math was a curricular answer to Cold War fears of American intellectual inadequacy. In the age of Sputnik and increasingly sophisticated technological systems and machines, math class came to be viewed as a crucial component of the education of intelligent, virtuous citizens who would be able to compete on a global scale. In this history, Christopher J. Phillips examines the rise and fall of the new math as a marker of the period's political and social ferment. Neither the new math curriculum designers nor its diverse legions of supporters concentrated on whether the new math would improve students' calculation ability. Rather, they felt the new math would train children to think in the right way, instilling in students a set of mental habits that might better prepare them to be citizens of modern society - a world of complex challenges, rapid technological change, and unforeseeable futures. While Phillips grounds his argument in shifting perceptions of intellectual discipline and the underlying nature of mathematical knowledge, he also touches on long-standing debates over the place and relevance of mathematics in liberal education. And in so doing, he explores the essence of what it means to be an intelligent American-by the numbers.

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Review:

"The New Math sheds light on a time when changing political commitments were affecting what it meant to be prepared--mathematically--for citizenship in a modern, technology-laden society. . . . The book is based on extensive research and is incredibly well documented. . . . Likely to stand for a long time as the most thorough, authoritative account of this mid-twentieth-century phenomenon."--Jeremy Kilpatick, University of Georgia "Science "

"Phillips unravels and unfolds complex interactions between political issues, school practices, power structures, struggles about learning, curriculum, and the nature of mathematics and their significance for the rise and fall of the new math. He conceives of the new math as a site where--and a lens through which--the changing politics of midcentury America are instantiated and made visible. . . . Phillips's book is very well documented, well argued, and well written. It is a scholarly piece of research, drawing extensively on archival sources, and it will remain a standard reference for future research into the phenomenon of the new math."--Tinne Hoff Kjeldsen, University of Copenhagen, Denmark "Isis "

"Importantly, The New Math explores not just the production of these textbooks but also what happened when they were actually brought into American classrooms and engaged by teachers, students, and parents. As a result, in addition to being a fascinating political history it's also a model of how we can treat the archaeology of the classroom as a way to approach the history of science."--Carla Nappi "New Books in Science, Technology, and Society "

"Reacting to the Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957 as a wake-up call, the United States provided extensive funding for the development of the 'new math.' Unfortunately, the impetus to better prepare the nation's students for a more technical future gave way to a twenty-year path littered with educators' resistance, parental confusion, public ridicule, and declining test scores. Phillips carefully presents this journey, starting with the politically driven funding to develop secondary mathematics programs that would emphasize conceptual understanding over computation. The well-documented book provides insight regarding the initial overhaul of the curriculum, primarily focusing on the School Mathematics Study Group (SMSG). Changes to the elementary-level programs were not originally part of the National Science Foundation funding, and Phillips describes how this evolved as well. He further explains how this national curriculum effort created challenges--adequate teacher training, costly textbook adoption, and consistency of delivery despite the best of intentions with which the movement was founded. The epilogue comments briefly on the post-new-math years, including the introduction of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) standards. Overall, the presentation is well reasoned, compelling, and informative. . . . Highly recommended."--N. W. Schillow, emeritus, Lehigh Carbon Community College "Choice "

"Thoroughly researched. . . . A much better guide than the folklore that exists about new math."--Robert W. Hayden "MAA Reviews "

"The New Math is well written, well documented, and well contextualized. . . . This gem of a book uses its ephemeral topic to shed light on the broader entanglement of knowledge, politics, ideology, and citizenship at the height of the Cold War."--Elizabeth Popp Berman, University at Albany, SUNY "Journal of American History "

"By unifying his examination of the politics affecting the rise and fall of the new math with the specifics of the actual curricular changes, Phillips provides a valuable historical perspective on a curricular issue that continues to bedevil mathematicians and math teachers alike. Years after the back-to-basics movement steamrolled the new math, elements of the reform, especially its commitment to teaching abstract reasoning, remained a component of public school math curricula in schools throughout the United States. Returning in the form of the 'math wars' of the 1990s, as well as current debates over Common Core math standards, the SMSG's work may have come and gone, but its legacy remains with us today."--Charles Dorn, Bowdoin College "History of Education Quarterly "

"At the intersection of the history of science and history of education, The New Math offers a compelling argument for understanding curriculum reform efforts in mathematics within the context of postwar/Cold War America. Making sense of these reform efforts as a response to the American experience after the war--including the efforts to return to normalcy, the rise of mass/consumer culture, the explosion of an unsettling (for adults) new youth culture, the expansion of secondary education, and the ascendancy of academic (particularly scientific and technical) expertise--enables the story of the new math reforms to shed a broader light on the political and cultural changes taking place during this period. This story provides insights into public perceptions of expertise and the perceived role of the academic (or any kind of) expert in American culture. A quality piece of scholarship."--John L. Rudolph, University of Wisconsin-Madison "author of "Scientists in the Classroom: The Cold War Reconstruction of American Science Education" "

"The New Math is ambitious, rich, and remarkably well-written. During the middle decades of the twentieth century, many groups struggled to articulate what 'mathematics' is, what 'mathematicians' actually do, and how a new approach to mathematics instruction could craft ideal citizens in America's schools. Mathematics teaching became a symbolic arena to sort out competing notions of proper thinking in the nuclear age. Drawing upon an impressive range of sources, Phillips vividly charts the surprising plasticity of 'mathematics' among professional scholars and the voting public in Cold War America."--David Kaiser, MIT "author of "How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival" "

"Phillips reminds us in his fascinating book that even though mathematics is supposed to be apolitical, the teaching of it is anything but."--Alex Bellos "Nature "

About the Author:

Christopher J. Phillips is assistant professor and faculty fellow in New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study.

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Book Description The University of Chicago Press, United States, 2014. Hardback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. An era of sweeping cultural change in America, the postwar years saw the rise of beatniks and hippies, the birth of feminism, and the release of the first video game. It was also the era of new math. Introduced to US schools in the late 1950s and 1960s, the new math was a curricular answer to Cold War fears of American intellectual inadequacy. In the age of Sputnik and increasingly sophisticated technological systems and machines, math class came to be viewed as a crucial component of the education of intelligent, virtuous citizens who would be able to compete on a global scale. In this history, Christopher J. Phillips examines the rise and fall of the new math as a marker of the period s political and social ferment. Neither the new math curriculum designers nor its diverse legions of supporters concentrated on whether the new math would improve students calculation ability. Rather, they felt the new math would train children to think in the right way, instilling in students a set of mental habits that might better prepare them to be citizens of modern society - a world of complex challenges, rapid technological change, and unforeseeable futures. While Phillips grounds his argument in shifting perceptions of intellectual discipline and the underlying nature of mathematical knowledge, he also touches on long-standing debates over the place and relevance of mathematics in liberal education. And in so doing, he explores the essence of what it means to be an intelligent American-by the numbers. Seller Inventory # AAH9780226184968

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