New Mathematics was a brief, dramatic change in the way mathematics was taught in American grade schools, and to a lesser extent in European countries, during the 1960s. The name is commonly given to a set of teaching practices introduced in the US shortly after the Sputnik crisis in order to boost science education and mathematical skill in the population so that the perceived intellectual threat of Soviet engineers, reputedly highly skilled mathematicians, could be met.
The documents on this page mark the early stages of the “New Mathematics Project,” including the earliest documents describing the research and the final product, a monograph that appeared in 1967.
- The first document, Mathematics among the Kpelle Tribe of Liberia was written by John Gay following a round of visits by researchers training in various relevant disciplines to advise him on the work. The report was written for the Educational Development Center, which had sponsored the research visits with the hope that it would evoke sufficient interest to win continued support.
- Following the report, there is a letter from the scholar assigned to evaluate this work: New Mathematics Letters (1964). The report is critical of the research to date, and rendered problematic the continuation of the research. The handwritten comments in the margins were written by Michael Cole.
- As a result of the subsequent discussion, the work was allowed to proceed, eventually producing a monograph in the Winter of 1965-66 – “The New Mathematics and an Old Culture,” written by John Gay and Michael Cole in 1967.