Saxon Math Warrior

John Saxon

A West Point graduate, John held three degrees in engineering. He was a highly decorated U.S. Air Force combat pilot in Korea and a test pilot whose colleagues included several future astronauts. After teaching at the U.S. Air Force Academy for five years and serving a year in Vietnam, John retired in 1970. The next year he became a part-time algebra teacher for night classes at Oscar Rose Junior College near Norman, Oklahoma. Frustrations built as he saw the lack of academic success among his students who ranged in age from 18 to 50. He maintained they were able to learn—it wasn’t that they weren’t “bright”—but they were facing full-time jobs and raising families while also attending night classes. Studying algebra, with forgotten or never-learned math skills, his students were often emotionally and physically tired when they walked into his classroom.

John tried every strategy he had used as a flight instructor and at the Air Force Academy and nothing was working. He eventually figured out he should compile worksheets of problems with detailed explanations on how to work each step with a review of previous problems built into each day’s lesson. He hoped this would help his students retain what he was teaching in order to progress to the next step of their degree plan. It worked. More than that, it worked unbelievably well.

John Saxon knew that “results matter” in all areas of life—including the study of mathematics. As a teacher, he wrote and published his own textbooks because he realized that good books were absolutely vital to getting high quality results from math students. He was right.


Saxonisms

Results, not methodology, should be the basis of curriculum decisions.

Creativity springs unsolicited from a well prepared mind.
Fundamental knowledge is the basis of creativity.
Creativity can be discouraged or encouraged,
but creativity cannot be taught.

Problem solving is a process of concept recognition and concept application.
Problem solving is merely the application of previously learned concepts.
The “art” of problem solving cannot be taught.

The use of productive thought patterns can be taught,
but the act of “critical thinking” cannot be taught.

Mathematics is an individual sport and is not a team sport.

Students do not detest work; they detest effort without purpose.

Beautiful explanations do not lead to understanding.

Saxon books will win every contest by an order of magnitude.

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