Most well known as a columnist, feature writer, and blogger for the Washington Post, he was the 1999 recipient of the Benjamin Fine Award for Outstanding Education Reporting.
He attended both Occidental College and Harvard University and served in the Vietnam War.
His full-length, education-themed publications include Class Struggle : What's Wrong (and Right) with America's Best Public High Schools (1998) and Harvard Schmarvard: Getting Beyond the Ivy League to the College That is Best for You (2003).
His marriage to USA Today and New York Times editor Linda Mathews produced three children, including a journalist son named Joe Mathews.
In 1988, Mathews published a nonfiction work titled Escalante: The Best Teacher in America. The book tells the unique life story of Bolivian-born, Los Angeles-based high school mathematics teacher Jaime Escalante.