History of Mathematics Education in North America

See also history of education in the United States

Mayan invented the use of zero

1556 – Spanish

Before 1700 – 11

11 Math books published


1st book math content in English “Young Secretarial’s Assistant”


1st arithmetic text book Greenway Method,  School Master’s Assistant, Pike’s arithmetic

1821- 1894

Rise of the University - Rousou Froebel


1st Public normal school in MA


First Teacher's College - Columbia


University of Nebraska - Lincoln

1895 –

Graduate College oldest West of the Mississippi

1821 –

Colburn’s Arithmetic


Learning Theory as theTeaching of “Mental Discipline.” Mind made up of faculties and the more it was used the stronger they became (memory muscles) this was known as Faculty Psychology
Thorndike at Columbia University destroy this theory with his experiments.

Brownel advocated practical knowledge


Reform, decreasing enrollments, the depression, pragmatism, and the lack of interest in memorization lead to the idea that meaning needs to be taught.


Meaning VS. drill

WW II draftees were found to be inadequate in their education - Steelman report – need technicians, engineers, scientists

Study at Columbia found that 80% of the students who could do:
(x+y)2 = x2 + 2xy + y2 ;
couldn't do (u + t)2 = t 2 + 2ut + t 2 or
(40+2)2 = 40 2 + 2*40*2 + 2 2


University of Illinois Commission on School Mathematics lead by Max Beberman created an excellent high school curriculum for college bound students.

Then the Illinois Arithmetic Project headed by David Page created an elementary curriculum


both were comleted and had the discovery method built in.


Sputnik – World War II, felt education needed help, were we a backward country? When the US rocket was launched to try to catch the Russians it blew up. Blame was put squarely on the schools.

NeededTechnology - created the National Science Foundation for the purposeto enhance science.

It was given $ to create workshops to help teachers iin high schools, then junior high schools and elementary.


SMSG School Mathematics Study Group headed by Ed Begle from Stanford University decided that to improve student learning of mathematics the curriculum could be improved by improving the texts.

Thought they could write an imporced text in a summer , try it the following school year and revise it the next summer.


Every major Publishing co. was publishing copies of math books.


Solid Geometry dropped was dropped down to 10th grade & not hit good enough.

1962 - 1963

Modern Math

Madison Project – Robert Davis

Ball State Project -

GCMP Greater Cleveland Math Project

Bring school curriculum in line with mathematics because math had changed


Publishing Companies were publishing their 3rd generation of math books

There was interest in individual students, accountability, and a counter revolution that lead to a Back to the basics Movement


NACOME - Report


Prism Project – Survey with Recommendations as a result of the project

Problem Solving, Piaget, Ganya, Bruner, Modern Math – Abstract

There were now 57-62 different text books and they were rapidly changeing

More talk about our Technological edge and money was being taken out of education creating a time bomb while other countries were dumping money into eduation.

The number of Secondary schools all over the country were decreasing their requirements for math


A Nation at Risk


National Council of Teachers of Mathematics published their first Standards Book.



Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes
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