About Caleb Gattegno

About Caleb Gattegno

Caleb Gattegno is the teacher every student dreams of; he doesn’t require his students to memorize anything, he doesn’t shout, at times he doesn’t even say a word, and his students learn at an accelerated rate because they are truly interested.  In a world where memorization, recitation, and standardized tests are still the norm, Gattegno was truly ahead of his time.


He is the author of pedagogical works, books on psychology and books on reflection of different subjects including the brain, awareness, energy, death, health, love, and economics.  His exploration of these topics led him to believe that although one is the same person all one’s life, humans are constantly learning and changing.  For Gattegno, human learning adds to and adjusts our existing abilities, to meet the demands of future skills that will be needed.


Gattegno was a scholar of many fields. He held a doctorate of mathematics, a doctorate of arts in psychology, a master of arts in education, and a bachelor of science in physics and chemistry.  He held a scientific view of education, and believed illiteracy was a problem that could be solved. He questioned the role of time and algebra in the process of learning to read, and, most importantly, questioned the role of the teacher. The focus in all subjects, he insisted, should always be placed on learning, not on teaching. In his view, the role of the teacher is not to inform students of facts, but to lead them to make discoveries through their own insights.  He called this principle the Subordination of Teaching to Learning.   He defined learning as the following process:


  • Awareness – discovering something unknown

  • Exploration – trial and error and drawing conclusions and criteria from one’s mistakes

  • Transition – practice leading to an understanding that is automatic

  • Mastery – the ability to take knowledge and apply it to further learning


Gattegno had not considered the problem of reading until he went to Ethiopia on a United Nations literacy mission in 1957.   The city of Addis Ababa was shut down for Christmas when he arrived, giving him time himself.  During this 48 hour period, he learned how to read the local language.  When he discovered that it is supposed to take 18 months to teach Amarinya, he had to test his method on others.  Gattegno had illiterate ministry employees in their 50s and 60s reading newspapers within six hours.


This experience allowed Gattegno to develop teaching tools rich in approaches which appeal to the human skills of imagination, creativity, insight and intuition.  These tools work to build on skills already mastered, while at the same time offering students insight into the student’s own learning processes.  The concept of creating criteria, making the classroom into a laboratory, and discovering the unknown, are the basis of Gattegno’s work.  The teaching aids Gattegno developed, allow the role of the teacher to be that of a guide, leading students to make discoveries through their own insights, without informing them of facts.


In the new age of air travel, Gattegno travelled around the world many times conducting seminars on his teaching methods.  He himself had mastered more than 40 languages. He published more than 120 books during his career, and from 1971 until his death in 1988 he published the Educational Solutions newsletter five times a year. He died in Paris in 1988, two weeks after presenting a seminar titled Le Mystère de la Communication, near Grenoble, France.  Dr. Gattegno was survived by his wife Shakti Gattegno and his four children.



 Chronological History of Caleb Gattegno


Birth, Alexandria, Egypt


Mathematics Teacher at the Lycée Français in Alexandria (Mission Laïque Française),


Doctorate in Mathematics, University of Basel, Switzerland


Founder and Director of the Centre d'Etudes Supérieures Scientifiques et Technique in Cairo


"Visiting Mathematics Professor" at the University of Liverpool, 1945-46


Mathematics teacher and teacher trainer for grammar schools in the London area and at the University of London, 1946-57


Master of Arts in Education at the University of London: The Mathematical Definition of Education, 1948


Doctorate in Philosophy, University of Lille, France



Founded, in Britain, The Association for Teaching Aids in Mathematics.  This organization continues to exist at The Association of Teachers of Mathematics [ATM]

Founded Mathematics Teaching, a journal for The Association for Teaching Aids in Mathematics

Worked with Jean Paiget translating [with F.M.Hodgson] two of his works into English

Docteur ès Lettres (Philosophy) at the University of Lille: Recherches sur une pédagogie de l'affectivité



Founded the Cuisinaire Company in England; served as its Director until 1986.  The Cuisinaire Company published over 70 authors, including Caleb Gattegno between 1960 and 1982.  The company had branches in 7 countries during this time.


Member of the United Nations mission to Ethiopia, with the objective of finding a solution to the high illiteracy rates there.


Groundbreaking work in the field of math with the film, “Mathematics at Your Fingertips”


Founded Educational Solutions Inc, in New York, NY, USA


Published the Educational Solutions Newsletter five times annually


Published almost 120 books and 500 articles in scientific and other journals in a dozen countries. See the bibliography 1.2.9   [The following list should come up as a link when bibliography is clicked.] of his works


Died in Paris in 1988

Sima Gandhi