Amanda is the director of the Riverbend Community Math Center. I first met her in Washington DC folding origami with elementary school children. Like all great educators there is an intensity about the way she inspires students in her midst. She really listens to their discoveries and imparts a hunger and an urgency. Somehow she couples this with zen-like calm 😉
Sugata has experimented with alternate models of education. He is most famous for his “Hole in the Wall Experiment” in which a poor neighbourhood was provided with a computer screen, internet access, but no instruction. Children quickly managed to figure things out by themselves.
Malke explores the intersection of mathematics and dance. “Math in your feet” is the most physically dynamic mathematics initiative with children creating their own dance. I am a little biased because we are writing a book together for young children: “Socks are like Pants, Dogs are like Cats.”
Maria is the founder of the Math 2.0 Interest Group which is helping math education communities talk to one another through frequent webinars. She is also co-author of the joyous “Moebius Noodles – Adventurous math for the playground crowd.”
Visit her web site here.
James Tanton has a vision of mathematics education identical to my own. He introduces tough, engaging problems to his students (lucky students!) and offers videos to inspire teachers. His natural “centre of gravity” is in high school. Visit him here.
The most impressive set of statistics that I have seen used in a presentation is by Deborah Ball at the Library of Congress on April 16th, 2015.
The statistics gave a 1-2 punch:
1) Students of first year teachers perform 3% lower than average students. Students of second year teachers are nearly as strong as long-term teachers.
2) Teacher demographics show that the number of first year teachers in the workforce has recently risen from 3% to 6.5%:
It was more than just the raw statistics that were impressive. Deborah was a strong apologist for the need for change:
The U.S. does not have a professional system for preparing, licensing, or improving the quality of teaching.
Henri is an insightful educator. I was sure that I had improved on one of his problems by adding a story-line and some beautiful rainbow aesthetics, but he correctly pointed out that perhaps my beautiful aesthetics gave away too much… They were starting students out with a giant hint that they really should have discovered by themselves.
When I lamented the choice of beauty versus pedagogy he immediately responded that I didn’t have to choose – that I only had to add on a little bit at the start of my story – that I was blinded by fog.
My cherished Aesthetics were not lost – just postponed by 5 minutes.
This little vignette shows a man deeply connected to what works and how to get the best out of students (and his peers.)
Henri’s web site is here.
Unsatisfied with South Africa’s education system, Sharanjeet Shan has taken it upon herself to improve the level of mathematics in the country. She impacts 175,000 South African students. Her quotes say it most eloquently:
Math is important because it’s a skill of life. Everything you do is connected to mathematics. It’s the discipline of nature. Understanding maths makes you a better person in terms of how you solve problems. You cannot get away from it
Algebra is a skill of understanding patterns.
80% of careers require some amount of quantitative literacy.
Listen to a radio interview with her here.
Julia Brodsky is a founder of Art of Inquiry which is a stimulating enrichment program for students aged 6-9. Visit the Art of Inquiry here.
Lora Saarnio is dedicated to the mathematics classroom and to board games. After learning chess at the incredibly old age of 19 she became the 36th ranked female chess player in the US. Together we have helped facilitate the Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival in the US, China and Canada.
William G. McCallum
William McCallum is the architect of the Common Core Curricular Standards which have (as of 2015) been adopted by 43 states. I was quite skeptical until I sat next to him at an event in Washington DC. The Common Core Curricular Standards are goal posts. They do not say how to reach the goal. They are not a curriculum.
People may quibble about the details – like whether binary ought to be taught in junior high, but in the grand scheme, this is not as critical as establishing a good set of goal posts.
There is already good consensus with 43 states adopting the Common Core in the USA. Let’s not hesitate to adopt Common Core so that we have a baseline (i) from which to measure performance (ii) to change when evidence indicates a superior Common Core version 2.
Nancy is the great congregator of talent and the spark that makes things happen. Her passion for mathematics came from time shared with her father, Nelson Blachman. In trying to recreate these experiences she envisioned the Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival which is now the most successful mathematics festival in the United States. Nancy is also the driving force to set up an education website through the American Institute of Mathematics. As if that is not enough, Nancy is also responsible for supporting MathPickle so that for the first time since MathPickle began in 2010 it will be financially sustainable in 2015. I’m so grateful. Thank you Nancy.
Joshua is the Director of the Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival. What excited me so much about this festival when I first encountered it in 2014 was the fraction of girls who attended. The stereotypical attendee at most math competitions are competitive boys- this festival stresses co-operative problem solving and rewards children for tenacity – not for results. It works so, so well – and seems to work cross-culturally (I’ve helped to host the festivals in the U.S., Canada and China and the children’s experience looks identical.)
Joshua is an able leader of this inspired initiative. Many of the table activities are designed by him, and they are magnificently crafted hierarchical exercises which allow students of different ability to jump right in.
Dan Finkel and his wife Katherine Cook are the two halves who founded Math 4 Love. (Dan gets highlighted here only because I don’t know Katherine as well.) Dan provided my best-ever single day of professional development when I followed him around for a day at Nueva school. One highlight was the school assembly which had him run a beautiful computer program that illustrated the integers based on their factors. The students were absolutely transfixed. Dan creates his own puzzles and has also designed a beautiful math game – prime climb.