Louise Hay Award

2002 Winner: Annie Selden


Annie Selden has been a visionary for the promotion of research in collegiate mathematics education and has provided leadership for the professional community of mathematics educators. A leader in the field writes, “. . . the growth of interest in mathematics education by the entire mathematics community would not have happened nearly as extensively, as richly, and as quickly as it did were it not for the efforts of Annie Selden.” She was a key supporter in the realization of a professional organization, the Association for Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education (ARUME). The recognition of this organization led to the formation of SIGMAA on RUME as an MAA special interest group of which she currently serves as Coordinator. Her vision and investment of time and energy have made a vital contribution to the mathematics community’s understanding of teaching and learning undergraduate mathematics.

Annie Selden has contributed to the field of research in teaching and learning collegiate mathematics through significant writings on calculus learning and proof in advanced mathematical thinking. A colleague states, “Relative to the calculus reform she has produced thoughtful papers on topics such as functions, technology, the constructivist approach and research.” Her stature as a scholar in undergraduate mathematics education is evident from her invitations to chair a research forum on Advanced Mathematical Thinking and to serve as an editor or member of the editorial board of several mathematics education publications, including the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, FOCUS/MAA Online, UME Trends, The College Mathematics Journal, Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, and Research in Collegiate Mathematics Education. Over the past twelve years, in addition to editing numerous manuscripts, she authored or coauthored 18 mathematics education research papers, 26 Research Sampler columns, 36 news/feature articles, and 83 abstracts of mathematics education research. As an Associate Editor of MAA Online, she assumed the added responsibility of giving thoughtful and substantive responses to a wide variety of requests for additional information from scholars, teachers, and parents. She has taught a broad spectrum of students in Turkey, Nigeria, and the United States.

Annie Selden has given generously of her time and expertise by mentoring young faculty who are interested in pursuing research in undergraduate mathematics education. She has served as an effective mentor for the Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education Community (RUMEC) efforts to pair senior mathematics education researchers with mathematicians and other young faculty interested in carrying out research projects in undergraduate mathematics education. She listens carefully to research plans of young faculty and provides suggestions and critiques of their work. Her commitment has involved the devotion of many hours in long-distance communication and assistance in the preparation of research talks. Her collaborative spirit extends to others in her role as organizer of working groups and research sessions. She provides guidance to other researchers in the field by sharing her insight on issues ranging from how to write a quality research article to where to submit a paper for publication. She productively works with her colleagues from a base of respect, honoring the views of others, and promoting shared decisions on important research issues.

For her outstanding scholarly contributions to undergraduate mathematics education, her sustained efforts to promote the mathematics community’s understanding of the importance of research in mathematics education, and her role as a mentor to young faculty, Professor Annie Selden is awarded the Twelfth Annual Louise Hay Award for Contributions to Mathematics Education.

Response from Annie Selden:

I am very honored to have been selected by the Association for Women in Mathematics for its 12th Annual Louise Hay Award for Contributions to Mathematics Education.

I began my academic career intending to become a research mathematician. An auspicious start at graduate work in 1959, one failed marriage, and two children later, I finally completed the Ph.D. at Clarkson University in 1974. The job market being what it was at that time, this was followed by eleven years at universities abroad, teaching mathematics to students whose native language was not English. Perhaps as a consequence, I developed an interest in problems of teaching and learning. Why, if one explains things slowly and well with many interesting examples, do so many students not learn? Surely, I thought, such questions have answers. In 1978, I began modestly by examining the reasoning errors of students in my modified Moore Method abstract algebra course. Some years later, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that such efforts at investigating how students think about mathematics were regarded as a legitimate and important research area with well-developed criteria and standards.

Along the way, many people have influenced and encouraged me. One such person was, and still is, Ed Dubinsky. In 1988 he asked John and me to write what was to become the Research Sampler Column in UME Trends, which continues today in MAA Online. Thus began our continuing excursion into exposition for the mathematics community. It is no easy task to try to convey, in an engaging yet faithful way, the results of research in one area (mathematics education) to its potential consumers in another (the mathematics community). Good expository work in any field ought to be regarded as a valid scholarly endeavor.

Another opportunity to learn and develop came when I was asked to serve on the Editorial Panel of the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education. I can assure you that, should you ever be invited, this job is no hollow honorific. One is never without one or more manuscripts that need one’s careful attention. I learned a great deal about what makes for good, publishable mathematics education research — the kind that “pushes the field forward.” I became a very critical reader of the research literature. What was the research question? What is claimed in the way of an answer, or partial answer? What evidence is provided for that claim? Is that evidence convincing? I would like to thank the many mathematics education colleagues who served with me during those three years. That experience, along with my other editing and reviewing work for a variety of journals, convinced me of the importance of such scholarly work.

I would like to thank the members of SIGMAA on RUME (formerly ARUME) without whose hard work (and the support of ExxonMobil) our organization would not have come into existence and prospered. It has been my pleasure to serve as Coordinator in these early years; together we have written a charter and by-laws (three times), begun a literature database devoted to research in undergraduate mathematics education, written guidelines for mathematics departments seeking to hire and tenure specialists in mathematics education, and organized many research sessions and conferences. We are a growing vibrant organization and we invite anyone interested in research into the teaching and learning of undergraduate mathematics to join us.

Thanks are also due to the many students who have been a continuing source of inspiration about the varied ways one can interpret mathematics. My musings on mathematical cognition have been stimulated by their input. Mathematics education research has its pure and applied sides with the ultimate aim being improved student learning.

I would like to thank Tennessee Tech for allowing me to switch research areas. Despite its having hired me to do one thing (mathematics), I was never curtailed in my efforts to redefine myself and work in new, exciting directions. Tennessee Tech gave me time off to visit and learn from some very hospitable mathematics education researchers at Berkeley and San Diego State. Most of all I would like to thank my husband, John Selden, for joining me in these new directions — he is my most important research collaborator and critic.