Saxonisms—The wit and wisdom of John Saxon

Below are some “Saxonisms” that illustrate the wit and wisdom of John Saxon a well known math teacher and math textbook publisher.

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

Fundamental knowledge is the basis of creativity.

Creativity springs unsolicited from a well prepared mind.

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 therefore 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.

Educators cannot teach students to reason; they can hope only to provide students with the skills to reason. Prevailing math teaching methods fail to do that.

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

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

On how students think: “Aren’t you interested in theory?”

Answer: “No, man, I just want to know how to get the answer.”

Beautiful explanations do not lead to understanding.

Teachers are not paid to teach.

Teachers are paid to find a way for students to learn.

You do not teach mathematics with your head, but with your heart.

Making eyes sparkle does not come from erudite mathematics.

Teachers say they are going to teach the children to think.

The children can think already.

What they need to know is the math to use in their thinking.

Dr. Benjamin Bloom says you must overlearn beyond mastery

until you can do it like Fred Astaire said:

“Do the dance while reading Shakespeare.” 

  I contend that our job is to teach rewarding responses to mathematical stimuli,

to teach thought patterns that have been found to lead to the solutions,

to allow the students to practice reacting to the stimuli with these thought patterns and

to be rewarded with the warm feeling of pride that accompanies the correct answer.

I believe that students should be gently led and constantly applauded for their efforts.

I oppose intimidation in any form. Mathematics classes can become warm sanctuaries

towards which students gravitate because there they are asked

to solve puzzles by using familiar thought patterns.

You grasp an abstraction almost by osmosis through long-term exposure.

You can’t put your hand on it. That’s the reason we call it an abstraction.

We’ve never had research that shows how long it takes for students to absorb

abstractions in mathematics. It takes a long time. Then the summer lets them forget it.

Meaningful education research is an oxymoron.

We have more education research in America

than all the other countries and kids are at the bottom.

The math educators spend time at the universities

playing like they’re scientists and they publish their papers.

The idea that children can be taught from books that are unintelligible to adults

is absurd. This should be our first check from now on: If we can’t read and understand the book, then the book is unsatisfactory.

Most math books are like the Book of Revelation—

horror stories and surprises from beginning to end.

Students see my book as the 23rd Psalm.

It’s a nice safe place to go.

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

If it were possible to teach people to think, it would be possible

to teach professors of mathematics education to be mathematicians.

The only difference between a mathematician and

a professor of mathematics education is the creative spark.

[One studies inside the mathematical sciences. The other, the results of those studies.]

We have allowed this fraud, this pasquinade, on education by these people

who are literal and total gross incompetents, and they have destroyed

mathematics education in America to the point that I,

a retired Air Force test pilot who has flown two combat tours,

and whose profession was killing, know more about teaching than they do.

By asking math teachers of America to adopt the new list of fads without testing them, you will cause the gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged to widen because inner city schools are so bad that they will do anything that you say so they can protect their rear ends.”

It has to stop right here, right now.

The time for inactive skepticism is past.

I’m going to bypass the math establishment because a man convinced against his will

is of the same opinion. I will run over these people with a bulldozer.

Either I am the most brilliant thing to come down the pike,

having doubled some students’ test scores, or

the people in charge of math texts are totally incompetent.

  This is more than one man lighting a candle.

When they see the brilliance of this candle,

they’re going to have to light their own or be overpowered.

I know I don’t make headway by speaking out this way,

but I am determined to change this system of math education.

Our math experts aren’t really experts; they have abdicated

all claim to control by their behavior of the last 20 years.

I’m mad, and I’m doing something about it!

It’s a joyful, joyous experience, this one-sided battle.

There I am on one side and aligned with me are all the mommas and daddies

and employers. On the other are the major book companies

and their committees of experts.

My side has to win.

I believe I’ll be proven right by 2015 or 2020.

John Saxon was West Point graduate with three engineering degrees and a retired U.S. Air Force war hero who began a second career in 1971 as a math teacher, author, and publisher of K-12 mathematics textbooks. From 1981 to 2004, the year his company was sold, Saxon Publishers had distributed seven million textbooks worldwide. More “Saxonisms” can be found in John Saxon’s Story, a genius of common sense in math education by Nakonia (Niki) Hayes. Check