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John Saxon's Story, a genius of common sense in math education Paperback
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When John Saxon became a junior college algebra teacher after his military retirement, he was stunned by the mathematics deficiencies in his students, and the weak teaching materials he was asked to use. So he wrote and published his own algebra book in 1981. When he died in 1996, Saxon Publishers had annual sales in excess of $27 million. In this book, Nakonia Hayes tells the story of his life, his publishing venture, and his impact in the field of mathematics education. Author: Nakonia Hayes Publisher: Three Pup Press Format: 400 pages, paperback ISBN: 9780578051222
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The U.S. has moved from the most educated nation in the world two generations ago to virtually the bottom of the barrel in math education and it is high time that someone explained HOW this happened, WHO is responsible for it and WHAT can be done about it!!
JOHN SAXON'S STORY is about one of the original warriors in the nation's "math wars" that came into full bloom in the 1990s. The biography tells of Saxon's brutal battles from 1981 to 1996, the year he died, with a math education establishment whose ideology emphasized theory (and still does) versus understanding and mastering the basics - and who believed their approach was more important than strong academic results for students.
Parents need to read this book to learn how to become part of the monumental ground swell that is taking place as many independent teachers and informed parents demand proven, effective curricula in math and science. (Lessons can be learned from the parents of America's 1.5 million homeschooled students, half of whom use the Saxon curriculum.) Parents, for example, dare not assume that schools (public or private) are making good curriculum choices for their children from kindergarten through the 12th grade! Remedial education is now a $4 billion a year industry in the U.S. because of weak curricula and instruction. John Saxon warned this would happen.
While the subtitle of the book is "A genius of common sense in math education," it could well be "Everything you need to know about the leadership of math education in America!" It is a powerful eye-opener on a critical topic and a rich story about a "maverick" math teacher who became a hero to thousands of students, teachers, and parents as an author and publisher. He deserves a movie to match that of his friend, Jaime Escalante, the subject of Stand and Deliver.
Most likely not, and that's because John Saxon is a unique phenomenon, surely in American history, probably in world history. I would say he is our greatest educator. Oh sure, you'll want to say that John Dewey is. Well, Dewey might be our greatest social engineer. As an educator, he was merely a poseur.
John Saxon is the real thing. He loved math and education generally; he loved children; and he loved making sure that children learn math and everything else.
To this complex task, he brought an extraordinary array of talents and experiences. He earned three engineering degrees, flew fighter jets in the Korean and Vietnam wars, served as a test pilot for five years, looked like John Glenn and almost entered the astronaut program himself. He also taught a great deal, for example, at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Then, after 27 years in the military, he wasn't promoted from Lieutenant Colonel to Colonel, and had to retire. He did not like this at all. It was a bleak time; but it led him to teaching algebra in a community college. His students were as ignorant as you might expect students to be if they have been the victims of New Math or Reform Math. John Saxon was stunned, indignant, transformed, and ready to go to war.
He (as he put it, a man "whose profession was killing") would now show the Education Establishment how it's done if you actually care about children, math, and our country.
In summary, all of his books were demonstrably successful and superior. Children do better on all the relevant tests. Students using his books were much more likely to take chemistry, physics, calculus, and similar courses.
Reform Math can be viewed as a subversive technique for making sure we don't have math and science students. Saxon books were (and are) the remedy.
Basically, he insisted on patient, incremental learning, with lots of review, lots of practice, and lots of fun if you could manage it. He approached math the way a coach approaches football: "You create a structured system, and you work their tails off. They'll love it because they will be successful."
The bad methods that Saxon opposed are now being recycled into Common Core Curriculum. A bizarre and tragic development. Saxon showed how it should be done. Just use his books. Saxon always said he would compete with anybody, any time, in any competition they devised. He would pay all expenses. And his "books will win by an order of magnitude."
Nakonia Hayes has been a teacher, school principal, journalist, and now an author. She's balanced and scholarly in telling the life story of a person who was in combat for decades either with military enemies or with education enemies. She doesn't judge them. John Saxon did. He said the "National Education Association makes my skin crawl."
If you are involved in education and/or want to create successful curricula, this is a must-read book. It's the life story of a legendary figure in American history. The book relates many hundreds of anecdotes and quotations that will help you understand the phenomenon that was John Saxon.