TheNew Math of 1960’s
Whatprecisely was the New Math?
TheNew Math was mathematical education reforms. These reforms werechampioned by leaders of the ‘new math’ movement that took placein the United States of America in 1950’s and 1960’s(Kline, Morris. 1973).These reforms brought significant sudden changes or an upheaval inthe school mathematics’ viewpoint and content.
The‘new math’ movement, which involved a substantial number ofmathematicians, brought about changes to school mathematicscurriculum to a scale that was unknown before. These changes were asa result of accumulated growth in math over the years. The changesinvolved the inclusion of new topics such as algebraic inequalities,other bases other than 10, symbolic logic, Boolean algebra, and also,the changes involved deleting of old ones(Kline,Morris. 1973).But was it all about inclusion and deletion? No, this was arevolution which included looking at the old things in a new light.It included changing the assumptions and perspective.
Earlierin the ancient mathematics was divided into three branches. Thesebranches were geometry, algebra, and analysis, where analysis was themost vital of the three. The analysis is involved calculus and othermathematics that had grown out of calculus. Analysis’ growth andits subsequent use in physics were the scientific development of theeighteenth century.
Whydid the new math fail in the US?
Afterthe new math revolution, these new changes were not spared incriticism. Teachers and parents in the US criticized the new matharguing that it was beyond what the students experienced ordinarilyand hence they preferred the traditional topics, for instance, thearithmetics(Kline,Morris. 1973).Parents even went to school to study with the children to try tounderstand the material, but this did not succeed in the end.
Secondly,there was a problem of teacher training. This involved the questionof numbers. An estimate showed that in 1965, there 1,100,000elementary school teachers and 135000 high school mathematicsteachers(Kline,Morris. 1973).Another associated problem was in the teachers’ training collegeswhere teachers learned more advanced courses than the teachers wouldever teach. It was unusual at the elementary level for teachers toknow more than which is taught in grade school. The new math wouldlater succeed through interventions via enrichment programs towardsthe gifted students from the 1980’s in the Project MEGSSS(Swensen, Cole. 1988)
Theold fashion of teaching 32
Thenew fashion of teaching 32 – 12 = 20
Inthe introduction of new math, the goal was to teach students not justto manipulate formulas and numbers but to clearly understand theunderlying concepts. This is done through administration inclassrooms. The students and teachers are usually in the same roomswhere they engage each other. The teachers act as guides to thestudents, and the students engage teachers by even asking questions.The teachers administer practice questions, exercises andexaminations to students to monitor their mastery of the classroomlearned concepts.
Thestudents are usually provided with books and other referencematerials where they source for other knowledge and exercises forpractice purposes. Even in the current learning, the students areawarded for motivation purposes.
Kline,Morris. 1973. WhyJohnny can`t add: the failure of the new math.New York: St. Martin`s Press.
Swensen,Cole. 1988. Newmath.New York: Morrow.