id: 06318530
dt: b
an: 2016d.00010
au: Clements, M. A. Ken; Ellerton, Nerida F.
ti: Thomas Jefferson and his decimals 1775‒1810: Neglected years in the
history of U.S. school mathematics. With a foreword by Douglas L.
Wilson.
so: Cham: Springer (ISBN 978-3-319-02504-9/hbk; 978-3-319-02505-6/ebook). xx,
204~p. (2015).
py: 2015
pu: Cham: Springer
la: EN
cc: A30
ut:
ci:
li: doi:10.1007/978-3-319-02505-6
ab: Publisher’s description: This well-illustrated book, by two established
historians of school mathematics, documents Thomas Jefferson’s quest,
after 1775, to introduce a form of decimal currency to the fledgling
United States of America. The book describes a remarkable study showing
how the United States’ decision to adopt a fully decimalized,
carefully conceived national currency ultimately had a profound effect
on U.S. school mathematics curricula. The book shows, by analyzing a
large set of arithmetic textbooks and an even larger set of handwritten
cyphering books, that although most eighteenth- and nineteenth-century
authors of arithmetic textbooks included sections on vulgar and decimal
fractions, most school students who prepared cyphering books did not
study either vulgar or decimal fractions. In other words,
author-intended school arithmetic curricula were not matched by
teacher-implemented school arithmetic curricula. Amazingly, that state
of affairs continued even after the U.S. Mint began minting dollars,
cents and dimes in the 1790s. In U.S. schools between 1775 and 1810 it
was often the case that Federal money was studied but decimal fractions
were not. That gradually changed during the first century of the formal
existence of the United States of America. By contrast, Chapter 6
reports a comparative analysis of data showing that in Great Britain
only a minority of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century school students
studied decimal fractions. Clements and Ellerton argue that
Jefferson’s success in establishing a system of decimalized Federal
money had educationally significant effects on implemented school
arithmetic curricula in the United States of America. The lens
through which Clements and Ellerton have analyzed their large data sets
has been the lag-time theoretical position which they have developed.
That theory posits that the time between when an important mathematical
“discovery" is made (or a concept is “created") and when that
discovery (or concept) becomes an important part of school mathematics
is dependent on mathematical, social, political and economic factors.
Thus, lag time varies from region to region, and from nation to nation.
Clements and Ellerton are the first to identify the years after 1775
as the dawn of a new day in U.S. school mathematics ‒ traditionally,
historians have argued that nothing in U.S. school mathematics was
worthy of serious study until the 1820s. This book emphasizes the
importance of the acceptance of decimal currency so far as school
mathematics is concerned. It also draws attention to the consequences
for school mathematics of the conscious decision of the U.S. Congress
not to proceed with Thomas Jefferson’s grand scheme for a system of
decimalized weights and measures.
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