It’s time to recognize a national hero in American math education.

Jan 6, 2018 by

It’s time to recognize a national hero in American math education.

Announcing a comprehensive, updated website for

JOHN SAXON’S STORY,

a genius of common sense in math education

John Saxon’s Story is a biography that presents such a hero. It explains the uncompromising war he waged against America’s disastrous math education leadership from 1981-1996. With so many Goliaths to fight, he didn’t win the war, but he did set up winning opportunities for millions of students in math education. The website is at http://saxonmathwarrior.com.

By Nakonia (Niki) Hayes, Jan. 6, 2018

RESULTS MATTER.

Most folks understand the concept, “results matter.” It’s just common sense.

John Saxon especially related to it as a student, career military officer, and later as a mathematics teacher. He had been a pilot in World War II, a West Point graduate with an engineering degree, a flight instructor for new U.S. Air Force recruits, a highly decorated bomber pilot in the Korean War, a test pilot for the new jet planes, the recipient of two more engineering degrees, a teacher at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and a Vietnam veteran. After his military retirement in 1970, he had agreed to be a part-time community college algebra teacher. That led to his writing a textbook and then becoming an entrepreneurial textbook publisher for his own authored mathematics textbooks.

Saxon knew that results had mattered in all his jobs, particularly those based on the discipline of mathematics that demanded efficient and accurate calculations. There were life and death decisions that could arise from his duties as a bomber pilot, test pilot, and flight instructor. With engineering, he knew incorrect results could be deadly to people and/or devastating to property. He even recognized that results in his teaching jobs could easily affect his students’ abilities to make future life choices.

Saxon was therefore astounded when math education leaders promoted curricula that were not based on teaching how to acquire precise answers with efficiency. It displayed that they hadn’t grasped, or didn’t believe in, the concept of “results matter.” Their focus was on premises, fads, and unfamiliar methods designed to produce equity over excellence. Social engineering was the goal, not learning the powerful, historically-based, and world-renown discipline of mathematics. He said their curricula was built on racism and sexism.

ELITES’ RIDICULE IGNITES A 15-YEAR WAR.

When they declared war on him as a “backwater” community college teacher in Oklahoma, he was perplexed. It happened after he self-published his algebra textbook in 1981 that proved to be more “user friendly” for his own struggling students as well as those in a pilot program of 20 Oklahoma schools.

The elitists hated his book and ridiculed it as being written for the simple-minded: “Even a monkey could teach it,” one snickered. THE WAR WAS ON. It lasted from 1981 to 1996 while he continued to teach, write more math books, hire others to help write in his traditional style, and hire a sales staff totally comprised of former Saxon Math teachers. Within five years, he was a multi-millionaire. By 1996, the year he died, sales had hit $28 million. Two years later, sales had doubled to $56 million.

By 2004, when his company was purchased, Saxon Publishers had sold seven million textbooks. There were, evidently, a lot of “simple minded” individuals working in American mathematics education.

SAXON STUDENTS SCORE BIG.

Many reports are included in John Saxon’s Story that show how more Saxon students were being enrolled in higher level math and science classes, fewer were in watered-down math classes, and more were showing higher scores on the College Board exams.

Today, more than 1.5 million homeschoolers per year learn from John Saxon’s materials. Notable charter schools like BASIC use it. Smaller schools favor it more than do urban districts since large districts with politically-driven curriculum directors still believe the lies that it’s for “slower” or “low income students.”

ONLY SAXON’S DEATH ENDS THE WAR.

The war pitted Saxon against the U.S. Department of Education, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), the National Science Foundation (NSF), university and college teacher training programs dedicated to the progressive math education ideology, and vendors invested in selling products for the constant new fads. His chances of winning the war were slim with so many Goliaths to conquer. He fought it anyway. The fighting only stopped because of his death in 1996.

STUDENTS SAW A HERO.

For many students, John Saxon became a hero. He had helped them succeed, often for the first time, in mathematics classes. One example, of many in John Saxon’s Story, is in Chapter 15, pages 141-142.

The Navajo Times of Window Rock, Arizona, headlined a story on May 20, 1990, “‘Hero’ to address W.R. graduation.” The president of the senior class had explained they were looking for someone they admired, and they had chosen John Saxon. He said it was because “[Saxon] has done so much for us.” Students taking calculus had lobbied for Saxon’s selection over the state governor to be their commencement speaker.

A story in The Arizona Republic a week later reported, “Saxon is hardly a likely teenage hero…At this high school, as at thousands of other high schools around the country, Saxon’s name is spoken with reverence by pupils who credit him with changing completely their views about math.”

Another story appeared in USA Today the following year about the Navajo students in Window Rock. It said they had increased their math ACT scores by 89%, from a score of 10.5 in 1985 to 19.8 in 1991, which was above the national average of 19. Their math teacher, Alice Jasmer, said the difference “is John Saxon.” She agreed that total credit for the great increase could not be given to the Saxon textbooks alone, but the students’ choosing him as their commencement speaker in 1990 “said a lot about Saxon’s influence on the students.”

Parents, many teachers, and some maverick administrators had joined John Saxon’s fight for children’s rights to learn proficient math skills, not to have to learn how to survive failed policies, politics, or ideology. Rarely, if ever, had anyone seen a vendor like him believe that “results matter” more for the children than securing more power and profits for adults.

JOHN SAXON’S COMMANDING PRESENCE REMAINS.

The updated website is found at http://saxonmathwarrior.com. Saxon’s directness, impatience for wasting time in children’s brief learning windows, and his West Point value system of “duty, honor, country” come through. It shows his crisp analysis of math education issues with his “Saxonisms,” new excerpts from media stories tell about his battles, and there are links to his videos. This website is designed to ensure that his commanding presence as a proven leader among America’s children in mathematics education is remembered and, hopefully, honored.

Special Note: There is a special section in the website under “Author’s Bio” that explains once and for all why Saxon Math is NOT aligned with Common Core.

The biography, John Saxon’s Story, a genius of common sense in math education, is available from Amazon or the website. All proceeds go to West Point’s Department of Mathematical Sciences in memory of LTC John Saxon, class of 1949.

[Disclaimer: Nakonia (Niki) Hayes has no business affiliation with any person selling Saxon Math products.]

Nakonia (Niki) Hayes, author, John Saxon’s Story, a genius of common sense in math education

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