Although the Madison Project ended when its National Science Foundation-funding ran out, its influence and reach were never extinguished. Today, educational mathematics materials are permeated with ideals and examples that were part of the Madison Project. An example is the new eight Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practices.
This influence can be traced back to the professionals who participated in the Madison Project and became leaders in the field of math education.
- Marilyn Burns
- Don Cohen
- Gordon Clem
- Beryl Cochran
- Katharine Kharas
- Gail Lowe-Parrino
- Hal Melnick
- Helene Silverman
- Andrea Rothbart
- Jacqueline Grennan Wexler ("Sister J")
- Judith Jacobs
- Joan O'Connell Barrett
Marilyn Burns was a college student at Syracuse University in 1961. In a recent email exchange, she spoke about her connection with Bob Davis and the Madison Project.
“At the time, I was an undergraduate in Bob’s program to prepare secondary math teachers. I also worked for him part-time as a secretary, helping his full-time secretary, Marilyn Hurley. … Bob left and I had a new advisor the next year. It wasn’t the same. How could it be?
But I was lucky to get back in touch with him at a later time, maybe 1967, when I was living in California and teaching eighth-grade math. … I was in NY, visiting family and walking with my father up Madison Avenue, and Bob and Beryl were walking toward me (I’ve read that the probability of coincidence is higher than you think, and this is an example of that, for sure). We stopped and my knees were shaking. He looked at me, searching for my name, and I was thrilled that he remembered it. He asked what I was doing and invited me to come to California and be on the teaching team for the workshops he was organizing. And the rest is a rich history that never would have happened.”1
The history to which Burns refers is indeed rich. In 1984, she formed Math Solutions, an organization dedicated to K-8 math education. In addition to running this successful organization, she is an award-winning author and math educator. Her books for teachers include About Teaching Mathematics and Math and Literature. Her books for students include The I Hate Mathematics! Book and The Greedy Triangle.
In the early 1960s, Don Cohen moved to Missouri to be a part of the Madison Project. His time was split between work at Webster College and the Clayton School District.2 In 1966, Cohen moved to New York and became the New York Resident Coordinator for the Madison Project.3
Cohen is now well-known as "The Math man." In 1976, he co-founded The Math Program, a private program for tutoring children. His books include Calculus By and For Young People for ages 7 — yes, 7 — and up. Cohen also authored Changing Shapes with Matrices. Those books have been translated to Japanese.4
When Gordon Clem was first told he would be teaching math, he began looking for ideas. After listening to an audio tape by Davis, Clem sought him out and soon became a part of the Madison Project.5
Clem would fill in for Davis at times, including representing him at meetings with Addison-Wesley, the publisher of some of the Madison Project materials.6 During this time he was still teaching math at Saint Thomas Choir School in New York City.
In addition to serving as headmaster of the school from 1967 to 1995, Clem became a national and international math workshop leader. He was director of the K-8 Math Workshop at Dana Hall School in Wellesley, Massachusetts, for 43 years.
For three years starting in 1958 or 1959, Davis came to Horace Hurlbutt Grade School in Weston, Connecticut, for an hour a week to teach Beryl Cochran’s fifth-grade students. At first, she made audio recordings. Eventually, with grant funding, the classes were filmed by professional television recording crews from New York City.
Cochran later became the Weston facilitator of the Madison Project and was involved in seminars around the country with trips to England and Africa.7
Davis considered Cochran a research associate for the Madison Project. Together with Alan Barston, they published the article “Child-Created Mathematics” in the March 1970 issue of The Arithmetic Teacher. (Cochran, Beryl S. (March 1970). Child-created mathematics. Arithmetic Teacher, volume 17, no. 3, pp. 211-216).
Bob Davis was Katharine Kharas’s professor when she was a graduate student at Syracuse University. Originally, Kharas was not interested in teaching math to elementary students. However, Kharas became interested in the field after Davis was able to demonstrate that one could teach a high level of mathematics to a fifth-grade class.
In 1961, Kharas moved to Missouri to take a position as a half-time faculty member in Webster University’s math department. Kharas also worked half-time with the Madison Project.8
Later, she moved to California and was involved with Miller Math, a statewide initiative on math education that embraced many of the ideas of the Madison Project. Several of the personnel from the Madison Project were also hired by Miller Math.9
Eventually, Kharas taught math at Mesa Community College and was part of a team which gave in-service workshops to math teachers around the country.10
During a two-week workshop in Los Angeles in 1966, Gail Lowe-Parrino became so engrossed in the ideas of the Madison Project, she was soon training others in Chicago, St. Louis and New York.11
Lowe-Parrino also proctored a significant amount of training in California through Miller Math. She also conducted summer institutes in Hawaii for about 15 years. These institutes were very similar to the Madison Project workshops.12 Lowe-Parrino was also the co-author of the teacher’s binder called Hands-On-Teaching Strategies for Using Math Manipulatives.
In 1969, Hal Melnick, a creative young teacher at New York P.S. 50, was asked to set up a math lab with a variety of manipulatives. This led him to Don Cohen and the Madison Project, which shaped his view of math education for the rest of his life.13 After becoming a Madison Project trainer, Melnick earned a Ph.D. in mathematics education. He eventually joined the faculty of the Bankstreet College of Education.
Although Helene Silverman was teaching second grade at the time, she was part of the Classic Madison Project at Brooklyn Tech, which was essentially for grades 5-8. Because of her K-2 teaching experience, Silverman was promoted to Madison Project trainer.14
Silverman went on to develop materials such as “Math Activities With Dominoes.” Silverman was also a faculty consultant for the New York City Mathematics Project. She serves as a professor of early childhood and childhood education at Lehman College-CUNY.
In the 1960s, Andrea Rothbart was a consultant to the Madison Project. She developed materials for teaching calculus concepts to middle school students. She also prepared the pre-service and in-service trainers to present these materials, which focused on sequences.
After spending time at other universities, Rothbart returned to Webster and is currently director of the Mathematics for Educators Master’s Program.
Jacqueline Grennan Wexler ("Sister J")
Sister Jacqueline was a very persuasive woman. She was responsible for bringing the Madison Project to Webster, and found funding for the Project through community support from schools, corporations, and unions. In a recent email exchange, Marilyn Burns tells the story of the first meeting between Dr. Davis and Sister J.
“I was an undergraduate in Bob’s program to prepare secondary math teachers. I also worked for him part-time as a secretary, helping his-full time secretary, Marilyn Hurley.
I remember that we had received notification that the floors were going to be closed in Smith Hall, where Bob had his office and where the math department at Syracuse University was located. Everyone had signed off on the information that on such-and-such a weekend, the building would be inaccessible.
It turned out that Bob was hosting a visit from Sister Jacqueline on that very weekend, and he needed to find another place to meet with her. He grumbled about the building being closed since he hadn’t remembered the request and he wanted to show her some of the films. (As we all know, Bob was a bit absent-minded about some sorts of details.) Also, he grumbled a bit about the visit, claiming that it really didn’t make any sense anyway. He wasn’t Catholic; he didn’t want to leave Syracuse; yadda yadda.
Finally, he decided that a solution was for me to take the projector, screen, and films with me when I left the office on Friday, and he would pick me up on Saturday morning, and we’d go to his house and show the films there. So I lugged the projector, screen, and films back to my dorm on Friday and was downstairs at the curb on Saturday morning when he came by with Sister Jacqueline. I remember struggling to jam everything into the back seat of the car. I was really a bit overwhelmed. I had never been to his house before. After all, he was my professor and advisor, and I was only an undergraduate. We got to the house and brought everything inside. His wife, Rose, seemed a bit surprised. I’m not sure Bob had told her about this plan. And there really wasn’t any plan, or any obvious place to show movies. He and Rose were negotiating a solution, which involved Bob shoving the washing machine into a place from the kitchen to the living room so we could put the projector on it. As he and Rose were discussing the situation (Rose wasn’t pleased), Sister Jacqueline and I sat in the living room where there was a game of Go on the coffee table. She asked if I knew how to play. I didn’t. And she taught me, a distraction for us both while Bob was rearranging furniture. It all worked out, finally. I remember Sister Jacqueline as being gracious and interested, and she obviously was also very persuasive. That was the only time I ever met Sister Jacqueline. Bob left and I had new advisor the next year.”15
Sister Jacqueline served as president of Webster College from 1965 to 1969. She later married Paul Wexler, and served as president of Hunter College of the City University of New York. In 1982, she was appointed president of the National Conference of Christians and Jews (now known as National Conference for Community and Justice).
Other stories of Sister J’s persuasiveness are told in her New York Times obituary.
In 1966, Judith Jacobs participated in a workshop and was introduced to the Madison Project. She was so impressed with the ideas that she was soon leading Madison Project training around the country.16 Although she had Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in mathematics, Jacobs said “I learned the joy of mathematics through the Madison Project.”17
After working on the east coast, Jacobs later earned a Ph.D. and joined the faculty of California State Polytechnic University in 1986. Jacobs was a founding member of the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators and the organization’s first secretary. She served as president of the organization from May 1995 to April 1997.
Joan O'Connell Barrett
As a student of Davis’s at Webster College, Barrett was present for most of the Madison Project’s filming. She later worked for Math Solutions, doing in-service training across the country. She is currently a math specialist for the state of Illinois, preparing training and evaluation materials for the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.
1Marilyn Burns (personal communication, May 18, 2013)
2Steven Schulman, What Was The Madison Project? (Doctoral dissertation) (ProQuest LLC, 2009, UMI No. 3373682), 260.
4“Calculus by and for Young People,” Math Future. Accessed August 22, 2011, http://mathfuture.wikispaces.com/Calculus+by+and+for+Young+People.
5Steven Schulman, What Was The Madison Project? (Doctoral dissertation) (ProQuest LLC, 2009, UMI No. 3373682), 288.
10“Katharine Kharas CoL,” Lorettocommunity.org. Accessed August 22, 2011, http://www.lorettocommunity.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Katharine-Kharas-CoL.pdf.
11Steven Schulman, What Was The Madison Project? (Doctoral dissertation) (ProQuest LLC, 2009, UMI No. 3373682), 344.
15Marilyn Burns (personal communication, May 18, 2013)
16Steven Schulman, What Was The Madison Project? (Doctoral dissertation) (ProQuest LLC, 2009, UMI No. 3373682), 293.