Education: New Angle on Algebra

One teacher takes on the math Establishment

His features are as austere and regular as a mathematical formula, his carriage as straight as the vertical axis in a Cartesian graph. Teacher John Saxon's eyes are the one variable in the equation: they burn with a visionary gleam. His vision is simple: a future in which the basics of algebra, the building blocks of all higher mathematics, become understandable to all American students.

Saxon, 58, is an unlikely mathematical messiah. He still resembles what he once was: a professional soldier. A graduate of West Point,...

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