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The School Mathematics Study Group Records

Archives of American Mathematics Spotlight: The School Mathematics Study Group Records

By Kristy Sorensen

One of the most comprehensive and distinctive collections at the Archives of American Mathematics is the School Mathematics Study Group Records. In order to make this collection more accessible to our researchers, the archivist has recently completed a project to transfer the ninety-five linear feet of files and publications from hanging file folders in filing cabinets into archival boxes. During the process of re-housing these materials, staff also enhanced the inventory by adding more detail to the existing folder list.

Under the direction of Edward G. Begle (1914-1978), the School Mathematics Study Group (SMSG) created and implemented a primary and secondary school curriculum between 1958 and 1977 that was widely known as the "new math." The SMSG Records at the Archives of American Mathematics document the history of the writing, implementation, and evaluation of the SMSG curriculum. The records consist largely of the director's files, and include correspondence, meeting agendas and minutes, grant proposals, financial records, newsletters, drafts of publications, tests, and training films. The collection also includes a comprehensive collection of SMSG textbooks and other publications as well as the records and publications of the National Longitudinal Study of Mathematical Abilities (NLSMA). The inventory to the School Mathematics Study Group Records is available online at:http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/utcah/00284/cah-00284.html.


Letter from E.J. McShane to Edward Begle, 22 November 1961. The "New Math" movement drew widespread praise as well as extensive criticism. In this 1961 letter, E.J. McShane, a professor of mathematics at the University of Virginia and a former president of both the AMS and MAA, writes to Edward Begle about criticisms of the SMSG program from physicists, as told to McShane by Joe Weyl (son of Hermann Weyl). The letter highlights the ongoing conflict in the classroom between pure and applied mathematics. From the School Mathematics Study Group Records, Archives of American Mathematics, Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

The SMSG Records are closely related to the New Mathematical Library Records, another collection at the Archives of American Mathematics. The New Mathematical Library was originally a publishing arm of the SMSG project, before it was taken over by the Mathematical Association of America and became a separate concern. The inventory to the New Mathematical Library Records is available online at:http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/utcah/00387/cah-00387.htm.


A worksheet from Mathematics for the Elementary School: Book 1, Student s Text, Unit 52 by the School Mathematics Study Group, 1965. From the School Mathematics Study Group Records, Archives of American Mathematics, Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

The Archives of American Mathematics is located at the Research and Collections Division of the Center for American History on the University of Texas at Austin campus. The Archives web page is at http://www.cah.utexas.edu/collectioncomponents/math.html.

Kristy Sorensen served as the Archivist at the Archives of American Mathematics at the Center for American History until November, when she accepted a new position as archivist and records manager for the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, Texas. The Archives are in the process of hiring a new archivist for the collections. Until then, all inquiries can be directed to cahref@uts.cc.utexas.edu.

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