New math

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Under the name New mathematics of the school was in the 1960s and 1970s in many countries mathematics education reform. Instead of traditional arithmetic lessons, mathematics should be taught as an occupation with abstract structures.

The New Math was an international movement that ran under the name New Math in the United States . With it, a development was reproduced that had begun in scientific mathematics in the decades around 1900 with the set-theoretical- axiomatic formulation of the fundamentals of the subject and was carried into academic teaching in the 1950s by the group " Nicolas Bourbaki " - whereby especially Jean Dieudonné also advocated the transfer to school lessons. In 1959 he gave at an international conference of the OEEC (the predecessor of the OECD ) in the Royaumont monasterythe slogan from "Down with Euclid - Death to the Triangles!" There were first debates on the 1958 International Congress of Mathematicians in Edinburgh. One of the motives was also the Sputnik shock , as a result of which it was identified that there was a great educational need to catch up in the West. A driving force behind the program in Belgium, France and internationally was Georges Papy , who also wrote textbooks on New Mathematics .

Even before the OECD conference there was a corresponding movement in the USA, where it was promoted, among others, by the influential Chicago mathematician Marshall Stone (who chaired a follow-up conference of the OEEC to the one in Royaumont in Yugoslavia on the high school curriculum ) and was driven by the School Mathematics Study Group (SMSG) led by Edward G. Begle (Yale, later Stanford) and Howard Fehr (Columbia University Teachers College), which was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Here, too, New Math found its way into the school curricula (Secondary School Mathematics Curriculum Improvement Study (SSMCIS), headed by Howard Fehr). There was, however, resistance, as was the case with Morris Kline in 1973 in his work Why Johnny can't add. The failure of the New Math formulated. In France, too, there was increasing resistance in the early 1970s.

In West Germany, the "New Mathematics" was one of several reforms that were intended to respond to the "educational emergency" proclaimed by Georg Picht ; The same period also saw the introduction of the Reformed Upper School and the establishment of reform universities such as those in Bielefeld and Constance . At the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs on October 3, 1968, it was decided to introduce new mathematics across the board for all types of schools from the 1972/73 school year. At that time, Walter Robert Fuchs achieved bestseller successes with books such as parents discover new mathematics (1970).

A lasting achievement of the "New Mathematics" is, for example, the early introduction of the concept of function in the teaching of the intermediate level. Further innovations, such as the treatment of group and body axioms, were withdrawn after a few years.

The most spectacular innovation consisted in starting mathematics lessons in elementary school no longer with counting and arithmetic, but with naive set theory . The aim was, in addition to teaching math skills, to promote logical thinking and the ability to abstract in the children. For this purpose, set theory was didactically reduced to set diagrams , the elements of which were colorful plastic plates, the so-called "logical blocks", with different properties. However, this reform met with resistance from parents and teachers and was abolished after a few years.


  • Bob Moon: The New Maths Curriculum Controversy. An International Study. Falmer Press, London 1986.
  • J. Fey, Anne O. Graeber: From the new math to the Agenda for Action, in: G. Stanic, J. Kilpatrick (Editor): A Recent History of Mathematics Education in the United States and Canada. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics 2003
  • Elizabeth Barlage, The New Math. An Historical Account of the Reform of Mathematics Instruction in the United States of America, ERIC, Institute of Education Science, 1982, abstract
  • RW Hayden: A Historical View of the "New Mathematics." American Educational Research Symposium, Montreal 1983
  • Tom Loveless: A tale of two math reforms: the politics of the new math and the NTCM Standards, in: Loveless (editor): The Great Curriculum Debate: how should we teach and reading math?, Brookings Institution Press 2001
  • Christopher J. Phillips: The New Math. A Political History , Chicago University Press 2015

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ New Thinking in School Mathematics , Organization for European Economic Cooperation, Paris 1961, with the same article by Dieudonné
  2. Published as Alexander King, Howard F Fehr, Lucas NH Bunt (ed.), Mathématiques nouvelles, Organization européene de coopération économique, Bureau du personnel scientifique et technique, Paris 1961
  3. Great confusion . In: Der Spiegel . No. 11 , 1972, p. 140-142 ( Online - Mar. 6, 1972 ).
  4. Tanja Hamann Makes set theory sick? The new mathematics in school , contributions to mathematics teaching 2011, pdf
  5. ↑ Set theory: 3 + 5 = 5 + 3 . In: Der Spiegel . No. 13 , 1974, p. 62-79 ( online - March 25, 1974 ).
  6. Morris Kline : Set theory - that's a waste of time . In: Der Spiegel . No. 36 , 1974, p. 32-34 ( online - 2 September 1974 ).