SAIL: Structured Activities in Intelligent Learning

Richard R. Skemp

March 10, 1919 – June 22, 1995

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The Author

Richard R. Skemp, M.A., (Oxon), Ph.D., (Manchester), F.B.Ps.S.

Richard Skemp was awarded degrees in both mathematics and psychology at Oxford. From 1955 to 1973 he was a lecturer/senior lecturer in the Psychology Department at Manchester University, where he took his doctorate. From 1962-1969 he directed the Leicestershire Psychology and Mathematics Project. From 1973 to 1986 he was Professor of Educational Theory and Director of the Mathematics Education Research Centre, at the University of Warwick, Coventry. He became an Emeritus Professor in 1986.

His book The Psychology of Learning Mathematics, published in 1971, has been translated into Dutch, Hungarian, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, and Greek. His later book, Intelligence, Learning, and Action, published in 1979, offers a new way of thinking about human intelligence, and its relation to schooling and education. These two books formed the basis of an eight year project, funded by the Nuffield Foundation and the Leverhume Trust, begun in 1978 and called the Primary Mathematics Project for the Intelligent Teaching of Mathematics (PMP). From 1980-1982 he was President of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (PME). His elementary school mathematics program, Structured Activities for Primary Mathematics, was published as a comprehensive teacher resource in England in 1989 along with a companion ‘theory for teachers’ text, Mathematics in the Primary School. Structured Activities for Primary Mathematics was adapted for North America and republished in expanded form in 1993 and 1994 as SAIL through Mathematics.

Until his death in 1995, Richard Skemp lectured and published widely in the field of human learning and mathematical education. Though he was an educational theorist of international stature, he had a keen continuing interest and involvement with school children, their teachers and the special problems associated with learning mathematics in school. This led, on the basis of his theory of intelligent learning, to the development of an exquisite mathematics program for the elementary school years, SAIL through Mathematics. Those who have had the privilege of participating in one of Richard Skemp's mathematics teaching in-service courses, of using his teaching materials, or of working with him personally, have glimpsed his brilliance, his dedication to mathematics and to the sound learning of it, his unerring attention to detail and to the great unifying mathematical and psychological structures with which he worked. His contributions to mathematics education have been outstanding. And he has been widely regarded for his generosity, helpfulness, good humour, and clear understanding of children and what it takes to enable them to enjoy learning mathematics well.