Ernest R. Duncan is remembered for his drive to improve mathematics teaching and his commitment to creating new approaches for teachers and students. Gifts to the Ernest R. Duncan Fund support action research conducted as a collaborative by university faculty, preservice teacher(s), and classroom teacher(s) seeking to improve their understanding of mathematics in Pre-K-8 classroom(s).
Duncan, a native of New Zealand, was an elementary and secondary school teacher. He was an inspector of schools for the New Zealand Education Department before coming to the United States in 1958. He received his doctorate from Columbia University. After years of experience, he became chairman of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University, where he was responsible for mathematics education until his retirement in 1977.
Among Duncan's many accomplishments was his 20 years' work as the senior author of Houghton Mifflin's successful elementary mathematics series,
Modern School Mathematics: Structure and Use.
The first edition was published in 1967, and the series continues to be revised regularly. It championed a number of innovations in mathematics teaching, including an emphasis on the use of manipulatives to teach math concepts. For more than 30 years, many children have learned mathematics from the materials he created. Many of his books were eventually translated into Spanish for use by schools in the United States and overseas.
Ernest R. Duncan died in 1990 at the age of 74.