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Archival Collections

This guide provides descriptions of some of Webster University's archival collections


The Madison Project was an innovative curriculum for teaching mathematics. It began at Syracuse University and was brought to Webster by Dr. Robert Davis in the early 1960s. This section provides access to digitized videos created from the original in-service films produced by the Madison Project, as well as information on the curriculum, Dr. Robert Davis who led the project, and the contributions and memories of others who were involved. Additional materials are preserved in the Webster University Archives.

Historical details

The National Science Foundation-funded Madison Project began in 1957 and ran for nearly two decades. Initially at Syracuse University in New York, the Madison Project expanded to Webster College (now Webster University) in Missouri, and Weston, Connecticut. In addition to developing materials for teaching math, the Project provided summer in-service training in large cities across the country to thousands of educators.

Dr. Robert B. Davis was central to the Madison Project and his goal was to improve mathematics education. Davis expanded the curriculum and promoted the instructional processes that led to mathematical insight and interest. Some of the digitized films on this site are clips of Davis teaching basic algebra and coordinate geometry to second through fifth grade students.

Materials used in the Madison Project included teacher training manuals, films, “shoeboxes” of hands-on kits for topics such as Tower of Hanoi and The Peg Game, and Davis’s books Discovery in Mathematics and Explorations in Mathematics.

But the Madison Project was much more than its products. Dr. Judith Jacobs, who was involved with it for many years, says that the Madison Project was about “making sense of the mathematics by figuring it out by yourself, not having someone tell you.”1

Dr. Katharine Kharas, another Madison Project facilitator, said the goal was “to change teacher’s minds about what kids could learn and how they learned.”2

What was the Madison Project? is the title of Steven Schulman’s 2009 doctoral dissertation. In it, Schulman writes, “I sense that the Madison Project is really the point of view of the teacher. I mean, once it’s established, it just continues as long as that teacher, and any teacher associated with that teacher continues to work.”3

Additional resources about the Madison Project

Davis, Robert B. The Madison Project: a Brief Introduction to Materials and Activities. 1965. ED028948


1Steven Schulman, What Was the Madison Project? (Doctoral dissertation) (ProQuest LLC, 2009, UMI No. 3373682), 298.

2ibid., 331.

3ibid., 286.


Dr. Robert Davis observes students in Madison Junior High School in Syracuse, New York


NSF funding for the Madison Project begins


The Madison Project expands to Webster College, Saint Louis Missouri. Its main experimental schools were in Weston, Connecticut (Weston Elementary School) and Public Schools of Clayton, Missouri.


Summer workshop in Chicago


Workshops in New York, Los Angles, etc.


NSF funding ends


Many of the facilitator and participants of the grant continue to have a major impact on mathematics education.

* approximate dates

Webster College was founded as Loretto College by the Sisters of Loretto in 1915, becoming the first senior Catholic college for women in Missouri and one of the first Catholic women’s colleges west of the Mississippi River. It was progressive for its time, providing higher education to women at a time when most prominent Catholic universities were not coeducational.

Change and innovation characterized life at Webster College in the 1960s. In 1964, Webster College launched its first graduate degree, a Master of Arts in Teaching program for teaching professionals in full-time employment. That same year the college opened an elementary school (later known as The College School) where faculty and students could have firsthand experience with curriculum development. The decade was also marked by the decision to eliminate required general education courses and to become fully coeducational in 1968.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that the groundbreaking Madison Project found a home at Webster College. Webster’s vice-president, Sr. Jacqueline Grennan, S.L., was instrumental in bringing Dr. Robert Davis and the Madison Project to campus. Grennan, who had experience teaching high school math, wrote extensively on curriculum reform and teacher education. She understood that “the proper objective of good learning is the grasp of the structure of the discipline…and that the proper method of good learning is the discovery by the student of this structure.”1

In 1967, Webster transferred ownership to a lay board and became the first U.S. Catholic college to become legally secular. At the same time, Grennan (who had become president of Webster College two years earlier) left her religious order but remained at the institution until 1969 when she married and become president of Hunter College in New York.

By the time Webster became Webster University in 1983, the institution had expanded to provide an array of graduate programs for the working adult at metro and military sites throughout the United States and Europe. Today over 100 extended campuses continue the tradition established by the Sisters of Loretto so long ago of taking quality, innovative education to eager students all over the world.



1Sister M. Jacqueline, S.L. (1962, December). An intensive model for implementing curriculum materials reform in elementary education. Unpublished manuscript, Webster College.