Louise Hay Award

2000 Winner: Joan Ferrini-Mundy


In recognition of her outstanding contributions to mathematics education, the AWM is pleased to present the Tenth Annual Louise Hay Award to Joan Ferrini-Mundy of Michigan State University.

Ferrini-Mundy is both a leader and a scholar. She is one of the leading intellectual authorities on the broad landscape of mathematics education in the United States, and a leading researcher in teacher education and development, and reform. Her knowledge, strong organizational skills, and ability to listen to and understand people from different intellectual communities have enabled her to lead, administer, and implement numerous organizational initiatives, at every scale.

Many concerned with mathematics education have had the opportunity to see one of these projects in progress. Ferrini-Mundy is the chair of the Writing Group for Standards 2000, the revision of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Standards. The Standards Writing Group alone consists of 26 different people – teachers, curriculum developers, mathematicians, and mathematics education researchers – with different perspectives on mathematics and mathematics education. One Writing Group member says,

As one of the writers on the Principles and Standards project I am in awe of Joan. Her organizational skills are extraordinary. Throughout this complex project she has had both a clear vision of what needed to be done and the flexibility to change when necessary. She has a great sense of integrity despite enormous political pressures. She has kept a varied group of strong-minded people on the same page for three long and hard years. Most important, I trust her judgement of what should happen in school mathematics.

Standards 2000 involves more than 26 people writing an eight-chapter volume. It is informed by White Papers from mathematics education researchers, reviews from Association Review Groups, and comments from many different constituencies – all of which must be considered. Ferrini-Mundy has led the writing adeptly, has listened carefully to many voices, and has communicated effectively to diverse audiences including mathematicians, mathematics educators, and policy makers.

In addition to chairing the Writing Group, she has occupied other positions of unrivaled leadership in mathematics education: Director of the Mathematical Sciences Education Board and Associate Executive Director of the Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education at the National Research Council. Important, although less high-profile activities include membership in the AWM Education Committee, the redesign of the Mathematical Reviews classification system to incorporate the literature on undergraduate mathematics education, and currently the chairing of the AMS-MAA Committee on Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education – helping mathematicians come to grips with a field of research which is central to the concerns of the profession, but yet is not mathematical research.

Joan Ferrini-Mundy is a model of the ability to work across disciplines and between practice and research in a way that enriches all participants.

Response from Joan Ferrini-Mundy:

It is an honor to be chosen to receive the Louise Hay Award from the Association for Women in Mathematics. Beginning with my earliest research in spatial visualization and calculus learning, I have been strongly committed to furthering the participation of young women, and all students, in mathematics at all levels.

Fortunately I have had the privilege of experiencing a number of professional opportunities that have enable me to work with outstanding colleagues nationally for the ongoing improvement of mathematics education. As a program officer at the National Science Foundation, as a faculty member at Mount Holyoke College and then for many years in the Mathematics Department at the University of New Hampshire, and then at the National Research Council, as well as in a number of projects over the years, including Standards 2000, I have learned from colleagues across a range of fields and commentates and value greatly the interactions I have been able to have over the past several years. I also have learned a tremendous amount from students – ranging from elementary school children encountering the delights of mathematics to graduate students pursuing deep questions about mathematics teaching and learning – about how worthwhile it is to pursue an agenda for the improvement of mathematics education.

I believe that the ongoing improvement of mathematics education at all levels in this country will depend on collaborative efforts that draw upon the best available research, the most carefully analyzed practice, and respect for history and tradition, together with respectful interaction and recognition of the varied expertise that is needed to shape the best possible experiences for children in mathematics education. Practicing mathematicians, researchers in mathematics education, mathematics teacher educators, curriculum developers, classroom teachers at all levels, and policy makes need to continue the work of finding productive ways of communicating, building knowledge and formulating and studying solutions and efforts to improve. I look forward to continued involvement in such efforts in years to come.