# What the heck was "new math"?

I’ve heard it referenced occasionally, I assume it was a particular method of teaching math. Could somebody give me an example of “new math”?

I think Cecil covered this, but as I understood it, “new math” was different from “old math” in its instructional approach.
Instead of just being told that 2 + 2 = 4 and you should remember that, students were taught the theories behind that (depending upon the grade).
In my day, math classes always started with set theory. Even in first grade. We learned about sets. We learned about unions and intersections and all that stuff.

I think my math instruction was fine and I can still draw a damn good Venn diagram.

It was an educational movement in the 60’s to early 70’s that attempted to change the way math was taught.

The general goal was to modernize course contents and give students a deeper understanding of math principls and concepts.

Traditional math emphasied reptitiious drills and memorization. New math urged students to understand concepts. The most frequently used was set theory and different base systems.

They failed because while they all agreed the goal was noble they disagreed on how to best impliment it.

Budgets were also the problems. Many schools now had to teach with old math books. So ideas like set theory and base systems were simply added to the old way of teaching math. For example instead of teaching children to work in base 8 they simply taught how to translate from base 8 to base 10.

The killer came in 1974 when math test scores reached an all time low and the scapegoat was new math. Thus it got blamed and largely forgotten.

I thought learning Base 8 or Base 12 or binary are all worthwhile things.

I want to get to paid in Base 8. It makes me feel like I’m making more money.

New math was a disastrously stupid idea promulgated by the academic brilliants back in the early 1970’s that produced an entire generation of mathematical illiterates, of which Yours Truly is the reigning monarch. History, anyone???

Actually, my grandpa William Wooton invented new math around 1960. The idea was to use algebraic ideas in the teaching of arithmatic. Some of the greatest mathmaticians of the worked on this idea. Unfortunatly, it didn’t work, but it was still an important landmark i the history of mathmatics. Still want my autograph?¿?¿

Remember- If you’re angry it takes 42 muscles to frown, and only a few muscles to smack the idiot that mad you angry in the first place.

Oh, god, I remember New Math–and Pickman, I’m with you. The poor teachers didn’t get any instruction on what it was or how to teach it, and they transmitted their confusion to us. So by the time Old Math came back in in the early '70s, it was too late for our whole class . . . WHAT is 1 + 1 again?

I was taught new math and remember it being a method of breaking down numbers when adding. For example:

235 plus 134

The “old” way was to put them on top of one another, carry any numbers to the next column and add it up.

The new math way was to break down each set of hundreds, tens and ones and add them.

200 + 100
30 + 30
5 + 4

Then add them together. The tricks work (for me at least) on all levels of math. I can figure percentages very quickly by using this breaking down process.

That’s what I remember anyway…

The snozberries taste like snozberries!

As Tom Lehrer said in his song ‘New Math’: “the important thing is to understand what you’re doing, rather than to get the right answer.”

Tom Lehrer wrote a song about the New Math in the sixties - it’s on his album That Was the Year that Was. Some of his comments:
“The important thing is to understand what you’re doing, rather than to get the right answer.”
“Base eight is just like base ten, really…if you’re missing two fingers.”

Nice timing.

As long as we’re discussing mathematics here, has anyone (besides yours truly, of course) encountered Trachtenberg math? It has a fascinating history, since it was developed by a Jewish mathematician while he was imprisoned in a concentration camp during WWII.

Forget New Math…some schools are not even teaching phonics anymore.

Fingermath! My mom taught it to me and my brother when we were little. I haven’t done it since then though.

“Eppur, si muove!” - Galileo Galilei

New Math was conceived in the post-Sputnik hysteria, when everyone was convinced that the Soviet Union was surpassing the United States in math and science. As previously stated, it was an attempt to familiarize children with the concepts of number theory. Higher mathematics treats basics like arithmetic as a special case in a general problem solving scheme. So I guess the idea was to teach math in a “top down” way, rather than the traditional “bottom up” way.