Esther L. Mendlesohn Biography
Her career in teaching began during World War II, and she later spent 28 years in the inner-city schools of her native New Haven-the last twelve as a Primary Math Specialist. She held Bachelor of Education and Master of Science degrees, both from Southern Connecticut State University.
Esther noticed that many students always seemed to remember the words to popular songs, and therefore decided to make use of music in the teaching of elementary mathematics principles. She wrote numerous songs, taught them to her first-grade students, and was delighted with their success. On many occasions, walking to her car after school, she would see her students in the school's playground, skipping rope and happily singing her math songs.
She was the author of two works utilizing music to teach mathematics at the Pre-K-3 level. Her "Primary Mathematics Teaching Tapes, With Scripts, Worksheets, and Teacher's Manual" (Houghton-Mifflin) taught principles of elementary mathematics through the use of clever, catchy songs which students happily memorized and sang years before the appearance of such programs as "Sesame Street." Her second publication, "Teaching Primary Math With Music-Grades K-3" (Dale Seymour Publications, now Pearson Learning) remains available, along with recorded tapes.
Esther was a member of National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM) for many years, and appeared as speaker and math-through-music workshop leader at regional and national conferences in 38 states and Canada. She was also a member of numerous local and regional mathematics organizations.
In April of 2002, at the age of 88, she traveled to the NCTM Annual Meeting in Las Vegas where she was recognized as a member of a special distinguished panel of longtime contributors to mathematics, and where she gave her final workshop on teaching Pre-K-3 Math With Music to a deeply appreciative audience which responded with a long, standing ovation. Her closest friends were always members of the NCTM/NCSM family, and she was able to enjoy the company of a great many of them at Las Vegas. She returned to her home after the conference, delighted and exuberant. She died six weeks later, on June 1, 2002-her 88 years matching the number of keys on her beloved piano.