You asked for – why did they change to New Math?

New Math was introduced as a way to modernize and improve mathematics education in the United States, emphasizing abstract concepts and problem-solving strategies over rote memorization of arithmetic algorithms.

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In the 1950s and 60s, traditional mathematics education in the United States was facing criticism for being too focused on memorization and not enough on problem-solving. In response to this, “New Math” was introduced as a way to modernize and improve mathematics education in the country. It aimed to shift the focus from just learning arithmetic operations to understanding the underlying concepts and principles governing these operations. The hope was that this approach would foster critical and analytical thinking and better prepare students for advanced mathematics and science courses.

As an article in the New York Times explains, “the New Math movement of the 1950s and 60s led to an emphasis on proof, abstraction, and generalization, rather than rote learning.” This movement was driven by mathematicians and educators who, in the aftermath of World War II, felt that the traditional approach to mathematics education was no longer sufficient to meet the demands of a rapidly changing world.

While New Math faced criticism in the United States, it had an influence on mathematics education in other countries, including Germany, France, and Japan, where it was embraced as a way to improve the quality of mathematical instruction.

Interesting facts about the New Math movement:

  • The New Math movement was heavily influenced by the work of French mathematician Nicolas Bourbaki, who aimed to reform the foundations of mathematics in the early 20th century by emphasizing abstract concepts and logical rigor.
  • The term “New Math” was coined in a 1958 book by the same name, written by mathematicians Max Beberman and Morris Kline.
  • Critics of New Math argued that it was too focused on abstraction and theory, at the expense of practical and useful mathematical skills.
  • The backlash against New Math led to a renewed emphasis on traditional arithmetic and computational skills in the 1970s and 80s. This approach, sometimes called “back to basics,” aimed to return mathematics education to a more traditional approach based on memorization of arithmetic facts and formulas.
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Table: Comparison of Traditional and New Math Approaches

Traditional Math New Math

Focus on memorization of arithmetic operations Focus on understanding underlying concepts and principles
Simple arithmetic required for everyday life Emphasis on abstract concepts and advance math skills
Rely on rote learning Emphasis on proof, abstraction, and generalization
Limited to basic arithmetic operations Broad range of mathematical concepts
Less emphasis on critical thinking and problem-solving Increased focus on analytical thinking and problem-solving
Examples: memorizing multiplication tables, long division Examples: Set theory, number theory, abstract algebra

As Arthur Benjamin, a mathematician and popular educator, summarizes, “New Math was a well-intentioned attempt to make mathematics education more rigorous and relevant, but it was poorly implemented and misunderstood.” Nonetheless, its legacy can still be seen in the way that mathematics education has evolved in the decades since.

Here are some additional responses to your query

This ‘new math’ was designed to give students a better understanding of mathematical concepts. The standards seek to create problem-solving skills and an ability to apply math concepts to real-world problems. This means that solving math problems now looks very different.

This video contains the answer to your query

In this video scene from Incredibles 2, Bob is perplexed as to why the method for solving math problems has been changed. Bob is frustrated that his son is being taught a new way to solve math, and wonders why math needs to change since math is math. He has to wait until his wife arrives to help his son because neither he nor his son can comprehend the new method.

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You will most likely be intrigued

What's the difference between old math and new math?
Essentially, “new math” means showing your work. Problems are drawn out much further than “old math” using techniques you have certainly used in your head to solve problems. This allows teachers to recognize their students grasp the concept itself, not just the answer; uplifting the effects of mathematics pedagogy.
Why did the US switch to Common Core math?
The Common Core began, in part, as a response to the bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, the sweeping federal mandate that required all schools to test students annually in reading and math, in the third through eighth grades and once in high school.
When did they start teaching new math?
As an answer to this: The first major change, coined New Math, was launched into American schools in the early 1960s. New Math stressed conceptual understanding of the principles of mathematics and de-emphasized technical computing skills. With New Math, out went the rote drill and practice of math facts and formulas.
Why is Common Core math being taught?
In reply to that: Objectives of Common Core Math Standards
Provide graduating high school students with the skills they need to be successful in either the workforce or post-secondary education. Boost math test scores for all American students. Smooth out differences between individual state curricula and practices.

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Such different mathematics