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Identifier: R-MC 059

Robert B. Davis Papers


  • 1957-1997

Scope and Content Note

The Robert B. Davis Papers consist of twenty one record storage boxes, spanning the period 1957 to 1997.

The collection is composed of handwritten notes, correspondence, printouts of e-mails, articles and book chapters, course materials and trip itineraries. The collection is arranged into nine series. Within each series, items are arranged alphabetically unless otherwise noted. Correspondence, 1957-1997 contains correspondence through regular and electronic means pertaining to numerous professional and personal topics. Academic, 1960-1997 pertains to the mathematics and education courses that Davis administered throughout his career as an educator. Projects, 1978-1997 focuses on the individual projects in which Davis was involved. These include the Madison Project and Mission Algebra. Books, 1965-1997 contains drafts, revisions, and the final versions of book chapters. Proposals, 1965-1997 contains grant applications and reports dealing with Davis's various projects, such as the Madison Project and the University High School project. Articles, 1964-1997, contains drafts, revisions, and the final versions of articles, both published and unpublished. Conferences, 1963-1997 pertains to the numerous national and international conferences that Davis was involved in throughout his career. Personal, 1958-1997 contains health information, financial statements, and material concerning Davis's family. Trips, 1968-1995 contains itineraries for conferences and other travel plans.


20 Cubic Feet (20 record boxes)

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The following items are restricted:

  1. Report - Study of Alternative CAI Curricula (1977) folder
  2. Susan Nanney's Thesis (1997) folder
  3. El Ed 330 Midterm Exam (undated)


The Robert B. Davis Papers contain material relating to Davis's career in mathematics education. The collection is composed of notes, correspondence, e-mail printouts, articles and book chapters, course materials, and trip itineraries. Although most of the material pertains to Davis's professional activities, some documents relate to personal matters.

Biographical Sketch

A distinguished educator known internationally for ambitious, fundamental, innovative work on the teaching and learning of mathematics, Robert Benjamin Davis helped establish mathematics education as a field of inquiry in its own right. His influence continues to be felt by teachers and students at every age and level. Born on June 23, 1926 in Fall River, Massachusetts, Davis received his PhD in 1951 from the Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He and his wife Rose had a daughter, Alexandrea, and a son, Paul.

Davis's main teaching assignments include MIT (1946-1951), University of New Hampshire (1951-1956), Syracuse University (1956-1972), University of Illinois (1972-1988) and Rutgers University (1988-1997). Professor Davis's work focused on five themes: 1) developing new curriculum and pedagogical approaches by classroom interventions; 2) designing and creating lessons based on computer interactions with students; 3) designing and implementing in-service teacher education; 4) contributing to the development of a theoretical basis for understanding human mathematical thought; and 5) contributing to the creation of a more effective dialog on mathematics education.

Davis was internationally known for the Madison Project (1957), which involved the creation of an improved mathematics curriculum for grades 2-9. This effort combined a new curriculum with pathbreaking teaching practices. In 1972, while at the University of Illinois, Davis developed mathematics courseware for the PLATO CAI (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operation) (Computer-Assisted Instruction) system, for grades 3-7. These materials build on the Madison Project's approach and develop it in new directions.

Another area in which Davis' work remains fundamental was the introduction of new perspectives drawn from cognitive science to reshape, and make more rigorous, the ways that we investigate and conceptualize how mathematics can be learned. Starting in 1971, such research was made available through the Journal of Mathematical Behavior (originally named The Journal of Children's Mathematical Behavior, which Davis founded; through a major book-length research study, Learning Mathematics: The Cognitive Science Approach to Mathematics Education; and through many influential papers in a range of research journals.

Davis made major presentations and led seminars, both in the US and abroad, based on his fundamental research and the teaching innovations that he pioneered. In addition, he participated in the BACOMET (an international group of math educators), and took part in a major planning group on education in the sciences organized in Washington, DC, by the National Academy of Science.

Starting in 1969, Davis was one of the main mathematical advisors for the Children's Television Workshop's series, Sesame Street and from 1969 to 1972, was a participant in the original research and development project that developed the computer programming language, LOGO.

On July 1, 1988, Professor Davis was appointed New Jersey Professor of Mathematics Education at Rutgers University. In the Fall of 1988, he helped to establish the Rutgers–New Brunswick Project on School Mathematics with Carolyn Maher. This project provided in-service education for all elementary teachers in New Brunswick and for all secondary teachers who dealt with mathematics, and included the development of new instructional materials and teaching practices.

Davis introduced the use of film and videotape as classroom tools that provide working teachers with the ability to reflect on how they and their students build and share their understanding. A pioneering mathematics educator and pathbreaking scholar for more than half a century, Robert B. Davis died of a heart attack on December 21, 1997. The Robert B. Davis Institute for Learning (RBDIL) at Rutgers Graduate School of Education is named in his honor.

Arrangement Note

The Robert B. Davis Papers are organized into the following series:

  1. I. Correspondence, 1957-1997
  2. II. Academic, 1960-1997
  3. III. Projects, 1978-1997
  4. IV. Books, 1965-1997
  5. V. Proposals, 1965-1997
  6. VI. Articles, 1964-1997
  7. VII. Conferences 1963-1997
  8. VIII. Personal, 1958-1997
  9. IX. Trips, 1968-1995

Processing Note

This collection was processed by David Ranzan with the assistance of Peter Asch. Reprocessing of the collection was done by Catherine Carey in 2011.

Documents in the collection arrived in boxes without much organization. All the documents were refoldered and organized by subject. There were numerous duplicate copies of many university documents, for each of which one duplicate was retained and the rest discarded. All other materials were retained.

Guide to the Robert B. Davis Papers, 1957-1997 R-MC 059
Edited Full Draft
David Ranzan
August 2006
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.

Revision Statements

  • February 2007: Revisions to the encoding were made by Caryn Radick. Further revisions were made by Catherine Carey in 2011.

Part of the Rutgers University Archives Repository

Rutgers University Libraries
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
169 College Avenue
New Brunswick NJ 08901-1163
732-932-7012 (Fax)