Louise Hay Award

2003 Winner: Katherine Puckett Layton


In recognition of her significant contributions to mathematics education, her outstanding achievements as a teacher and scholar, and her role in bridging mathematics education communities, the Association for Women in Mathematics is pleased to present the Thirteenth Annual Louise Hay Award to Katherine Puckett Layton, Beverly Hills High School.

Katherine Puckett Layton began her teaching career in 1960 soon after she graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. She devoted forty years of her life to teaching mathematics at Beverly Hills High School. While there, she served as the Chair of the Mathematics Department throughout the seventies and gave tirelessly to students through her association with Mu Alpha Theta. During her tenure there, she took several periods of leave for study and visiting appointments. She spent one year studying for her M.Ed. in Mathematics at Harvard University. She served as a Visiting Lecturer at Clemson University and the UCLA Mathematics Department. After her retirement in 1999, Ms. Layton served for two years as a Distinguished Educator at the UCLA Graduate School of Education. Her role was as a field supervisor in UCLA’s teaching intern program for mathematics majors. Even after retirement, her contributions to mathematics education continue, both at the national level, and where it is most important, in hands-on working with teachers and students.

During her outstanding career as a mathematics educator, she became highly involved in attending and giving presentations at workshops and conferences related to the use of technology in mathematics education, revealing her devotion to lifelong learning and staying abreast of new developments in the profession. In 1990, her exemplary teaching was honored when she received the California Presidential Award for Teaching Excellence.

Attesting to her involvement in mathematics education, Lida Barrett, past president of MAA, wrote in her nomination letter, “Kathy Layton is a superb representative of the many high school teachers who have served their students well and who have, in addition, served the mathematics profession well by their leadership contribution in its organization, by bringing to meetings and workshops the know-how from their education and classroom experience, and by serving on a variety of committees and task forces to represent school educators.” Ms. Layton has served mathematics education by being involved at all levels: local, regional, and national. She has been a member of NCTM since 1959, an invited speaker 22 times at annual meetings and 17 times at regional meetings. She has been a member of MAA since 1974, served on numerous committees, and been an invited speaker six times at MAA annual meetings. Her service includes her membership on the Mathematical Science Education Board, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and the College Entrance Examination Board.

Through her visiting appointments at three different universities, her post retirement appointment at UCLA, her many activities within NCTM and MAA, and her service on other national committees, she has helped build a much needed bridge between secondary educators and college faculty. Bert Waits, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the Ohio State University wrote in his letter of recommendation, “Katherine Layton can stand shoulder to shoulder with her university colleagues and has made significant contributions to our profession with deep insights that only a classroom high school teacher can bring.”

For her exemplary educational and scholarly contributions and her sustained efforts over her career on behalf of students, Katherine Puckett Layton is awarded the Thirteenth Annual Louise Hay Award for Contributions to Mathematics Education.

Response from Katherine Puckett Layton:

I am very honored and surprised to have been selected by the Association for Women in Mathematics for its Annual Louise Hay Award for Contributions to Mathematics Education. As a high school mathematics teacher, I feel privileged to be the recipient of this award. I am sorry that my father, William T. Puckett, a mathematics professor at UCLA for 36 years, is not alive to help me celebrate. Through my years in school, he was always willing to talk mathematics with me and to help me. He would never tell me how to do a problem but always asked me questions to guide me to a solution. I would get very upset at this technique; I wanted the answer immediately! I now know his methods led me to develop an understanding of many concepts and to enjoy mathematics. He was an excellent model of how one should teach: in addition to teaching students mathematics, respect them as human beings and always listen to their questions and comments.

In the fall of 1955, I began my undergraduate work at UCLA with the idea of becoming an elementary school teacher. After just two days, I found Out how much I missed mathematics, and the next day I began a mathematics course and declared mathematics as my major. During my graduate year (at that time 5 years were required for a secondary credential in California), I did my student teaching and took graduate-level mathematics classes. I didn’t know if I would begin teaching right away or go on for a masters in mathematics. I found out how much I loved helping young people understand mathematics. When I retired from Beverly Hills High School in 1999, after having been there for thirty-nine years, I still enjoyed working with students at grades 9 through 12, showing them the beauty of mathematics. It was a wonderful adventure.

I was fortunate. I had many opportunities for fine professional experiences, in part because I happened to be born to encouraging parents, to teach in a very supportive district (Beverly Hills Unified School District), to have good mentors, to be of the right gender for the times, to be in the western part of the United States, to be teaching what was considered a critical high school subject, and to begin teaching in the l960s.

In the early ’60s, the Advanced Placement Calculus program was getting underway in California. I was asked to start a course at Beverly Hills High School. My students worked hard and by their excellent questions and comments, taught me ways to help them understand the calculus. Over the years, they did quite well on the AP Exam. ETS was looking for high school women from the West Coast to help with the grading of the exams. I was in the right place at the right time with the right experience. During my 12 years of grading, I worked with many fine educators. I recognized the importance of the opportunity to interact with other teachers who really cared about helping their students learn. I became interested in becoming involved in other professional mathematics activities on the national level. John Neff gave me very good advice; he said, “Join the MAA,” which I immediately did. The MAA was looking for more ways to include pre-college voices in their conversations. This was important, and I wanted an opportunity to contribute. Over the years, I have found collaboration between college and precollege teachers has grown. In addition, I have seen mutual respect improve between the two groups. They are talking and listening to each other.

I have taken part in a number of excellent National Science Foundation Institutes and other summer programs. My school district was supportive of my professional opportunities, allowing me to attend mathematics conferences and providing substitutes so I could attend NCTM Board Meetings and meetings of the MAA Board of Governors. These activities, together with others, helped keep me up to date, let me interact with many fine educators at all levels, and helped keep teaching a fresh and learning experience for me. In the late 1980s, I was introduced to using technology to enhance the teaching of mathematics. What a charge to my teaching-I found you “can teach an old dog new methods.” Frank Demana and Bert Waits helped me learn to use technology to improve my teaching for both students and teachers.

I have been so fortunate in my professional career to meet and work with caring and fine mathematics professionals at all levels. Thinking about this response has given me the opportunity to remember my fine high school mathematics teachers-three women: M. Albers, Muriel McDonald, and Estelle Mazziotta—and to reminisce about my undergraduate years at UCLA and some of the outstanding professors I had, especially Robert Sorgenfrey, Lowell Paige, and Paul Daus. I remember many wonderful people in the Beverly Hills Unified School District–I hesitate to name just a few, but the large group could be represented by my former colleagues Helen Louise Aldrich and Newman Borden and my administrators Ken Peters, Sot Levine, and Ben Bushman. I also thought of the people I have had the pleasure of considering mentors in my professional life: Lida Barrett, Phil Curtis, John Dossey, John Kenelly, John Neff, Bert Waits, and, of course, my father.