Louise Hay Award

2001 Winner: Patricia Shure


Each Fall term at the University of Michigan there are over 120 sections of the mainstream pre-calculus and calculus courses. With approximately 30 students enrolled in each section, this requires about 115 instructors, (graduate students, new assistant professors and visitors) at least 50 of whom are not familiar with Michigan’s mathematics program. Pat Shure has developed a training program, called the Professional Development Program, which occupies the entire week before classes start and continues throughout the year. Some of the topics that are covered include cooperative learning, homework teams, interactive lecturing, and writing. During the first week, each new instructor gives a short lecture which is videotaped and then critiqued by a group of peers. During the semester, there are follow-up visits to the classrooms. The material that she has developed has been published by Wiley under the title of The Michigan Calculus Program Instructor Training Materials and has been instrumental in training new instructors not only in Michigan, but also at universities throughout this country and in Canada.

In 1982, Pat was hired by the University of Michigan as the Mathematics and Science Director of its Comprehensive Studies Program, a program whose main purpose was to support underrepresented minority students. She designed, directed, and taught in the special intensive classes which the program offered. She was also in charge of their pre-freshmen summer “bridge” programs. Since then she has been promoted to the position of regular lecturer in the mathematics department where she oversees the Introductory Program.

Throughout her career she has worked to attract young women into mathematics. In the early 1990’s she was a co-investigator of a five-year Sloan Foundation project which sought to identify factors which influence women to do advanced work in mathematics and physics.

She has been involved in curriculum reform since the early 1960’s. At the University of Michigan she was a co-investigator of a five-year NSF grant. The investigators designed and evaluated a series of instructional strategies to incorporate graphing calculators, writing, cooperative learning, and systematic testing of symbolic skills into first year undergraduate mathematics courses.

Glenda Lappan, who is president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, has known Pat for over twenty years. She writes:

“Pat has been a driving force in the calculus reform work at her University, the University of Michigan. She has always sought ways to improve teaching and learning at the undergraduate level. She has contributed greatly to the outstanding success of the Harvard Calculus at Michigan. She recognizes that curriculum materials alone will not bring about the desired student learning. Teaching that supports the goals of deeper understanding of fundamental concepts and procedures, as well as uses of the ideas, is as critical as the materials — if not more so. To this end, Pat has established a faculty and graduate student teacher training program to support the Harvard Calculus. All at Michigan who teach the course take Pat’s training seminars. Imagine how much success we might have if more university professors were willing to give such time and energy to issues of teaching mathematics so that students learn!”

The AWM is pleased to award Patricia D. Shure the Louise Hay award because of her tireless commitment to improving mathematics education for countless students. Her professional contributions along with her personal commitment to improving mathematics education are noteworthy. Thus, this year we honor Patricia Shure as the Louise Hay award recipient.

Response from Patricia D. Shure:

I am proud to have been chosen by the Association for Women in Mathematics to receive the Louise Hay Award for Contributions to Mathematics Education.

I am doubly proud to have been nominated by my colleagues. Over the years, I have worked closely with many talented people both in Ann Arbor and around the country, and I would like to thank them for their support, guidance, and companionship.

Because I came to the University from a background in elementary and high schools, I spent my early years listening to children explain their ideas, listening to fellow teachers talk about their teaching, and sharing my own teaching experiences with anyone who would listen. Those discussions could usually have been distilled down to a few questions. “What actually makes learning happen?” “What should we be teaching our students?” “How should a teacher act?” Today, I still hear the same questions from graduate students and post-docs, from Math Education researchers, and from our senior faculty.

Where should we turn for answers to our teaching questions? I would like to see us pursue a scholarship of collegiate teaching informed by the work of our colleagues in K-12 research. The search for answers is rewarding, and the answers can be surprising in their simplicity. At the University of Michigan, under a grant from the Sloan Foundation, we conducted one such study. We set out to look at the factors that influence women to persist in mathematics and physics. We canvassed the existing literature on women in schools and colleges and ran several studies on our own students. What we found was something that Louise Hay herself and the previous winners of this award also discovered as they taught. Our research indicated that the students who persist are those who:

  1. value and enjoy mathematics and science, and
  2. believe that they can succeed.

Our courses in Lie algebra and complex analysis would certainly look very different if each professor, guided by this research, tried to make you “like it” and “think you could do it”.

In my work in mathematics education, I am indebted to a long stream of students and colleagues whose insightful questions continually forced me to reexamine my own ideas. Above all, I am grateful to my Department. The Math Department at the University of Michigan is an exciting place – alive with work in many areas and at many levels. An atmosphere of inquiry drives this department; inquiry into mathematics itself, inquiry into the relationship of mathematics to our world, and, most importantly, inquiry into the learning and teaching of mathematics.