1993 Winner: Naomi Fisher
The 1993 award is presented to Dr. Naomi D. Fisher of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Co-director of the Mathematicians and Education Reform Network (MER) of the Universities of Illinois at Chicago and Minnesota and Director of the High School Teaching Program for the Regional Geometry Institute (RGI) for the Universities of Chicago at Illinois, Rice, Texas, Utah, and Washington.
The Mathematicians and Education Reform Network was created to facilitate the involvement of mathematicians in education improvement efforts. These efforts include mathematics education reform in elementary and secondary schools as well as improvement of undergraduate mathematics education. Over the past four years, MER has involved over 300 mathematicians and mathematics educators in regional workshops, has published, through the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences (with AMS and MAA), two monographs entitled Mathematicians and Education Reform, and has become a respected vehicle for legitimizing the role of mathematicians in education reform.
Much of the success of MER can be directly attributed to the vision and efforts of Dr. Fisher. From the beginning, she had a clear sense of what was needed to develop a feeling of respectability for education-related projects among research mathematicians. She recognized that for many mathematicians involvement in education reform is a difficult step that requires nurturing and evolves slowly. She first designed workshops that highlighted successful and substantial efforts by respected mathematicians. The workshops often included sessions that addressed various concerns related to the participation of women and minorities in mathematics. With interest growing among mathematicians in mathematics education improvement, she later developed workshops that were broader in scope and carved out a leadership role for mathematicians in school reform efforts. Her conception of the Mathematicians and Education Reformmonographs provided a scholarly forum for mathematicians to share research, experiences, and ideas about mathematics education. Her careful editing of the articles ensured that the content of the journal would be of high quality and respected. She has also attempted to use MER as a means to forge links between mathematics educators and mathematicians.
As coordinator of the program for high school teachers of the Regional Geometry Institute (RGI), Dr. Fisher developed a rigorous and exciting agenda for teachers that has been widely praised by participants. She also structured the program so that there would be significant time for exchange of ideas between the researchers and the high school teachers. In being a strong advocate on behalf of meaningful, two-way dialog among teachers and mathematicians, Dr. Fisher has made an important impact on the structure of the RGI and has broadened the views of many mathematicians.
It is also worth noting that Dr. Fisher has also developed many innovative ideas for the teaching of geometry at the elementary level. Her ideas have helped inspire many of the geometry lessons being developed in two major school curriculum projects: the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project (UCSMP) and the Teaching Integrated Mathematics and Science Project (TIMS).
Prior to coming to the University of Illinois at Chicago, Dr. Fisher served four years as Associate Director of the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project. There she had the difficult task of articulating the work and ideas of many different contributors into a coherent program. The wide commercial success of the University of Chicago materials can at least in part be attributed to Dr. Fisher’s success in accomplishing that task and in laying a strong foundation for further development and growth.
Naomi Fisher’s work over the past ten years has changed the way many people view mathematics and mathematics education. Whether she is working directly with pre-college teachers, developing innovative curriculum materials, or providing a legitimate entry point and encouragement for mathematicians to become substantially involved in mathematics education reform, Dr. Fisher has helped people stretch their thinking about mathematics. In doing so, she has embodied a spirit and passion for mathematics and a broad view of education that was shared by Louise Hay.