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J. Escalante and L. Lieber
Posted:
Jun 2, 1995 3:53 PM


I'm new to this list but have been following it for a few weeks. Just by way of introduction, I taught HS algebra II to 10th graders ('83'84). I then continued with grad school in statistics and have been employed in industry for the past nine years as a statistician. I have taught "precalc" math eve nings at a local community college as well. As a member of the Math Assoc of America I'm aware of the state of flux which mathematics education has been undergoing. I subscribe, more or less, to many of the ideas implicit in the University of Chicago School Math Project. I'm also involved with my local Board of Ed's Math and Science/Technology Task Force. Ok, so much for me.
     
I recently completed the book, 'The Best Teacher in America', which as some of you may know is the story of Jamie Escalante, who was, and presumably still is, a high school math teacher in California. What is interesting about this guy was that he taught calculus to a group of "basic math" kids, relatively impoverished (and presumably incorrigible ?) ones at that. Looking back on my own lmited experience, I'm certainly impressed with his accomplishment. For one it seems to cut across many of the preconceptions which I believe are held sacrosant by many educators and academics. I wonder, for example, how well modern educational modeling methods would do with data from Escalante's East LA schools ? Maybe treat them as outliers ? Any thoughts ?
     
Mike Goldenberg wrote about Lillian Lieber's books on yesterday's list. For those of you who aren't familiar, she (and her husband) wrote a whole set of cheerful math and science books during the 1940's. Their titles include NonEulcidean Geometry, Group Theory, Relativity, Infinity, The Education of T.C. Mits, among others. Throughout her books, there is a unique balance of mathematical and scientific information fused with poetic style. I'd be hard pressed to find something like this now days. Real happy stuff. Incidently, T.C. Mits stands for The Common Man In The Street. Oh yes, for those of you who might be offended, the Liebers were what was then called "progressives".
As mathematicians and educators, they saw their mission as nothing short of bringing science, mathematics, and later the arts to the people. This un doubtly as part of a rational alternative to the economy of Great Depression and the ravages of fascism of the second world war.
Most of their books are out of print.
     
The Mathematical Association of America (Washington, DC) has a publication on recommended mathematics books for secondary school libraries. I'm not familiar with it, but if it's as good as their one on recommended books for undergraduate college libraries (which is excellent), I'd look into it.
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