“The School Mathematics Study Group (SMSG) was an American academic think tank focused on the subject of reform in mathematics education. Directed by Edward G. Begle and financed by the National Science Foundation, the group was created in the wake of the Sputnik crisis in 1958 and tasked with creating and implementing mathematics curricula for primary and secondary education, which it did until its termination in 1977.” [Wikipedia]

“The result, after twelve years, was total failure.  By any reasonable measure, and measures were taken, school mathematics was worse off in 1975 than it had been in 1955.  The idiocies of the older curriculum had in most places been removed, but often to be replaced with new ones.  Tom Lehrer’s 1965 song New Math, lampooning the pretentious language used to justify an inability to calculate, had the mathematical community itself laughing at the follies committed in the name of promoting a better understanding of mathematics.” [http://www.math.rochester.edu/people/faculty/rarm/smsg.html]

This is a good example of how deluded academics and technocrats can trying to apply their ideas, without regard of context or participants, to educational settings. I think that Tom Lehrer’s song may gave you and idea of the dimensions of SMSG failure: