UCSMP officially began in 1983 when, through the work of Izaak Wirszup at the University of Chicago and Keith McHenry of the Amoco Corporation, the departments of mathematics and education at the University received a generous six-year grant from the Amoco Foundation (now the BP Foundation). The grant was for a multifaceted project to improve mathematics education for the vast majority of students in grades K–12.

University of Chicago Faculty Directly Involved

The project brought together several faculty whose research laid the groundwork for UCSMP. They were:

  • Izaak Wirszup, UCSMP’s Resource Development Component director. Professor Wirszup had collected a vast library of educational materials and research from the former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries, from which he had translated some of the best non-text materials. This work led him to alert government officials in Washington about what he felt were low standards of mathematics education in the United States compared to those in other countries.
  • Paul Sally, UCSMP’s first director. Professor Sally had created special summer programs to teach higher mathematics to bright high school students and had taken a special interest in educating inner-city schoolchildren.
  • Zalman Usiskin, UCSMP’s current director and co-director of the Secondary Component. Professor Usiskin had researched the teaching of mathematics using transformations, matrices, and groups, and through real-life applications and had developed textbooks for all four years of high school, incorporating contemporary mathematical thinking. His work had shown that many students enter high school with insufficient knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, and geometry to enable them to succeed.
  • Max Bell, UCSMP’s Elementary Component director. Professor Bell was a pioneer in the desire to teach applications of mathematics and had shown in his research that most children entered school with far greater mathematical knowledge than teachers and textbooks assumed.

At its start, UCSMP brought in as directors of portions of its work Sheila Sconiers, a 7th- and 8th-grade science and mathematics teacher who had worked with Professor Bell on developing materials for teachers; Larry Hedges, a professor of education with expertise in quantitative analysis and meta-analysis; and Susan Stodolsky, a professor of education with expertise in qualitative analysis and classroom observation. A few years later, Sharon Senk, a professor of mathematics education who, before UCSMP began, had worked with Professor Usiskin on a study of geometry and proof, joined the team.

Curriculum Work

UCSMP began by examining the curricula of other countries for proven ideas and methods, creating textbooks and training programs at both the elementary and secondary level, and engaging in extensive evaluations of its own work. Essential to this work was the participation of school administrators and teachers, who were closely involved in the planning, writing, and evaluation. Activities during the first six years of UCSMP were supported by grants from seven different funding sources.

In 1989, recognizing the need for UCSMP to continue its work, the Amoco Foundation granted funding for five more years. This grant, followed by additional grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the National Science Foundation (NSF), allowed the project to complete its K–3 materials, finish the last two books of its secondary curriculum, continue work on its program for mathematics specialists in grades 4–6 , and begin holding annual conferences for teachers at both the elementary and secondary levels.

In 1992, the project undertook three new multi-year initiatives: publication of UCSMP translations of foreign textbooks, extension of the K–3 curriculum to grades 4–6 with the help of a five-year NSF grant, and development of a second edition of the secondary curriculum. In the same year, the NSF also funded Karen Fuson of Northwestern University to design and carry out a five-year longitudinal study of performance of children in grades 1–5 of the elementary curriculum. In 1996, the second edition of the grades 7-12 curriculum appeared, an edition that because of publisher mergers and acquisitions first appeared from Scott, Foresman, then from Scott Foresman – Addison Wesley, and finally from Prentice Hall. By 2002, the elementary (K–6) Everyday Mathematics curriculum was in its second edition with publication by SRA/McGraw-Hill. The existence of second commercial editions of a full K-12 mathematics curriculum developed by a university-based project was unprecedented.

In 2005, the project announced the development of a third edition of its materials for middle and high schools, now to include materials for grade 6, to be published by McGraw-Hill Education (formerly Wright Group / McGraw Hill) in 2008-10. By 2007 Everyday Mathematics K-6 was in its third edition, published by McGraw-Hill Education (formerly Wright Group / McGraw Hill); and in 2008, an entirely new Everyday Mathematics for pre-kindergarten was published, also by McGraw-Hill Education (formerly Wright Group / McGraw Hill). Thus for the first time all the project materials were under one publisher.

When the Common Core State Standards were first announced, UCSMP was pleased that many of the developments that were championed in its materials were represented in the mathematical practices and content standards, though sometimes at earlier or later grade levels than in the third editions. In 2009, UCSMP created and McGraw-Hill made available online lessons to supplement the third edition of the materials for grades 6-12, and in the 2010-11 school year, McGraw-Hill published a Common Core State Standards Edition of Everyday Mathematics PreK-6.

In 2014, the UCSMP materials for grades 6-12 became available through the University of Chicago except in those states with state contracts with McGraw-Hill.

International Work

Immediately on receiving its first grants, UCSMP translated materials from Russia and Japan. This work raises the proficiency levels we think students can achieve, for it is clear that foreign educators (and parents) work from the premise that mathematical success is based more on opportunity to learn, interest, and diligence than on ability, and that the abilities of most students do not differ enough to warrant a different curriculum. Some of the UCSMP translations are available directly from the project; others from the American Mathematical Society.

UCSMP hosted international conferences in 1985, 1988, 1991, and 1998. This reflects our belief that good ideas and research are not limited to our country, and that experiences in other countries have relevance to us. Proceedings of these conferences were published by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. In 2005 and 2008 UCSMP hosted international conferences under the auspices of the Center for the Study of Mathematics Curriculum (CSMC). Proceeding of these conferences are published by Information Age Publishing as part of the CSMC series.

Teacher Education

Poor teacher preparation is often cited for the failure of past movements to reform school mathematics. In the middle 1980s, UCSMP designed a teacher development program to prepare K-3 teachers to teach a wide range of material than arithmetic and to integrate mathematics with other subjects, themes later picked up in the Everyday Mathematics materials. At grades 4-6, mathematics specialist teachers were trained to teach the mathematics at those levels. At all levels K-12, the curricular materials of UCSMP are supplemented with extensive materials for teachers.

In 1998, the Stuart Foundation funded UCSMP and the University of California at Berkeley to develop mathematics materials for secondary-school teachers. This effort culminated in 2003, when Mathematics for High School Teachers—An Advanced Perspective was published by Prentice Hall Higher Education Division.

Work continues on a variety of initiatives to help support Everyday Mathematics implementations in large urban school systems. These initiatives, which are funded by federal, state, and local agencies, provide direct services to teachers and leaders and are developing tools that local leaders elsewhere can use to support Everyday Mathematics in their own districts.


UCSMP is fortunate and proud to have been supported by funds from many private and governmental agencies. Also, since 1989, UCSMP textbook royalties have supported some UCSMP operations. In the 1990s, royalties from the secondary curriculum have generated funds for research in mathematics education – for UCSMP evaluations and other university research on teaching and learning mathematics – and for the publication of reports. Currently, royalties from the elementary curriculum are being used to fund the Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education (CEMSE), which was established at the University of Chicago in 2002 to conduct and support research and development for the mathematics and science education of children up to 14 years of age. Royalties from both curricula help to support the UCSMP administration and outreach through publications like this one.


As schools and educators look to UCSMP for leadership, we realize the importance of self-examination. UCSMP evaluators use the latest qualitative and quantitative methods to assess the impact and implementation of project curricula. Rather than assuming that students and teachers work with the materials uniformly and according to project intentions, evaluators examine actual use. Studies focus equally on the unique characteristics of classes, schools, and districts, and on broader generalizations about the effectiveness of project programs.

While curriculum materials are being developed, evaluations are formative. They indicate how we are doing and where we need to improve. After the materials are final or near-final, evaluations demonstrate the achievement differences educators can expect from UCSMP materials and ideas. We welcome the federal government desire for research-based materials, for we believe that UCSMP materials at all levels are among the most-tested materials available and that the preponderance of evidence shows that students using UCSMP materials outperform comparable students using traditional materials. A publication of the National Research Council supported this view. More recently, since 2010 UCSMP materials at both the elementary and secondary levels have received the “potentially positive effects” rating from the What Works Clearinghouse.

To our knowledge the largest study of UCSMP materials was conducted in 2003 by the ARC Center, located at the Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications (COMAP). This study was an extensive evaluation of reform mathematics programs in elementary schools in Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington state. The study examined the performance of approximately 40,000 students using Everyday Mathematics on state-mandated standardized tests, and compared their scores with those of students using non-reform curricula in comparison schools that were rigorously matched by reading level, socioeconomic status, and other variables. Results show that the average scores of Everyday Mathematics students are significantly higher than the average scores of students in their matched comparison schools – across the different state tests and grade levels; across topics ranging from computation, measurement, geometry, and algebra to problem solving and making connections; and across all income and racial subgroups. Many other studies have been reported in UCSMP Newsletters.

Influencing Policy

Change does not occur quickly, but since 1983 we have seen many of our beliefs accepted by the education community. Applications have become a feature of most materials at all levels. That all children can learn significant amounts of mathematics is now a widely held belief. In many schools the curriculum in grades 7 and 8 is no longer concerned primarily with review; and national data indicate that since 1981 the number of students taking a full algebra course in eighth grade has more than doubled. A report of the Conference Board of Mathematical Sciences (2000) recommended specialist mathematics teachers from grade 4 on, a goal towards which we have strived since 1984. A second CBMS report (2001) on the mathematical education of teachers recommended a greater number of mathematics courses be specifically designed for teachers, very much in consonance with the new UCSMP work for secondary school teachers.

UCSMP has also influenced national policy. In the 1980s, we had a hand in creating the Mathematical Sciences Education Board, and our work influenced the Standards established by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). In the 1990s, after some fifteen years during which curriculum projects were thought not to influence what goes on in more than a handful of schools, the existence and wide use of UCSMP materials encouraged NSF to fund a dozen multi-year projects at all levels from grades K–12 (including our own grades 4–6 curriculum efforts). The commercial success of UCSMP materials at all levels has influenced other materials in the marketplace. Most recently, we have been pleased that many UCSMP ideas adopted in the Common Core State Standards.

Still, much work remains to be done. There are very few specialist teachers in elementary schools, and the mathematical preparation of most elementary school teachers is pitifully weak. There is a chronic shortage of well-trained mathematics teachers at the middle school level. The achievement gap between students from affluent and poor areas runs counter to our view that there is equal opportunity for all in our country, and it is a gap that requires more than good curriculum and good teachers for its removal. The recent era has greatly increased expectations, participation, and performance in school mathematics at all pre-college levels and we need to build on that momentum. Preparing students for today’s technologically-sophisticated workplace requires continual re-examination of how mathematics is done and what mathematics is important. The stakes are high. Those who do not keep up now are likely to be even further behind when the next changes come.

Zalman Usiskin


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