Alan Meghrig forwarded a link to an Amazon offering of a new book related to early U.S. coinage decimal denominations. Thanks!
Editor
Thomas Jefferson and his Decimals 17751810: Neglected Years in the History of U.S. School
Mathematics
by M. A. (Ken) Clements, Nerida F. Ellerton
Price: $111.97
Hardcover: 204 pages
Publisher: Springer; 2015 edition (November 19, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN10: 331902504X
ISBN13: 9783319025049
Product Dimensions: 10 x 7 x 0.6 inches
This wellillustrated 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 nineteenthcentury 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, authorintended school arithmetic curricula were not
matched by teacherimplemented 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 nineteenthcentury 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 lagtime 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.
To read the complete article, see:
Thomas Jefferson and his Decimals 17751810:
Neglected Years in the History of U.S. School Mathematics (www.amazon.com/ThomasJeffersonhisDecimals17751810/dp/331902504X/ref=sr_1_1)
We encountered the authors last year in an article Len Augsburger sent about a "ciphering book" written by a teenage
Abraham Lincoln. Editor
To read the earlier ESylm article, see:
LINCOLN CIPHERING BOOK LEAF DISCOVERED (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n25a19.html)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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