Louise Hay Award

2012 Winner: Bonnie Gold


It is a great pleasure to present the 2012 Louise Hay Award to Bonnie Gold for her long career of dedicated service to mathematics and mathematics education. Trained in mathematical logic (Ph.D. Cornell University, 1976), Bonnie found her true calling not only in teaching university level mathematics but also in writing about and working for mathematics and mathematics education in the areas of assessment and philosophy of mathematics, in developing and directing New Jersey’s Project NeXT (New Experiences in Teaching), and in serving as the founding Chair of the Special Interest Group of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) on the Philosophy of Mathematics (POMSIGMAA).

Bonnie has won local and MAA Section Teaching awards, has served as Chair of two very different mathematics departments and has developed a huge variety of courses, ranging from calculus for the biological sciences to Platonic Dialogues as Drama. Her publication contributions are similarly wide-ranging; from co-editing books on Assessment Practices in Undergraduate Mathematics and Proof and Other Dilemmas: Mathematics and Philosophy to contributing articles to a variety of MAA publications to writing insightful reviews of numerous books on mathematical philosophy.

Bonnie has given generously and extensively of her time to professional service. In addition to Project NeXT and POMSIGMAA, she has served on and chaired MAA committees ranging from the Committee on Assessment to the Coordinating Council for Education and the Committee on the Teaching of Undergraduate Mathematics.

Roger Simon writes eloquently of the “very high standards of quality and thoroughness” that Bonnie brings to all she does. He notes that she has been an outstanding teacher of mathematics, a department chair of two very different departments, a “sustained contributor of service” to the profession and a “leader in developing departmental assessment techniques,” noting that “Louise Hay’s career had the same kind of highlights.” He goes on to note that her professional work with POMSIGMAA has resulted in “sustained, effective, efforts to rekindle mathematicians’ interests in the philosophy of mathematics.” She has done all this with two major motivations; one is “to get many more mathematicians to think about philosophical issues;” the other “is that she believes that our understanding of what mathematics is affects the way we teach or should teach.”

Bernie Madison writes of Bonnie’s enormous “contributions to the assessment of undergraduate mathematics” and of their joint work on the MAA CUPM Subcommittee on Assessment. The resulting volume, Assessment Practices in Undergraduate Mathematics“, which she co-edited, “placed mathematics well ahead of other disciplines in attention of assessment.” He cites Bonnie’s “good sense, dogged determination, and intimate understanding of undergraduate mathematics.”

Annie Selden’s letter of nomination summarizes Bonnie’s qualifications: “Bonnie has a very wide variety of professional interests in mathematics, philosophy of mathematics, and mathematics education. She has given unstintingly of her time to professional service. Bonnie’s dedication, enthusiasm, and friendliness are always evident in abundance … She is truly deserving of this award.”

Response from Bonnie Gold:

I would like to thank the Association for Women in Mathematics, which has done outstanding work, since its founding, publicizing the contributions of women mathematicians to the development of mathematics, as well as encouraging young women mathematicians, for this award.  Although the focus of the AWM has primarily been women’s research in mathematics, this award recognizes an equally important, though better known, role we play in mathematics, that of training future generations of mathematicians as well as educating the general public about mathematics.  I am particularly pleased to receive this award because many of the previous recipients, as well as the person the award is named for, are women I admire and have learned much from – Annie Selden (who nominated me for the award), Pat Kenschaft, and Susanna Epp especially.  I feel very honored to join their company.  In addition, it combines the influences of both of my parents, my mother, who was a mathematics major at a time when very few women majored in mathematics, and my father, who was a professor of education.

Mentors have been very important to me through my career, and while many have been women, three men should also be thanked for their influence on my work.  In the early part of my career, I spent many hours talking with Stanley Tennenbaum, one of my teachers at Rochester, about teaching mathematics, as well as about philosophy, which led to my interest in the philosophy of mathematics.  I would never have finished my thesis without the encouragement of my thesis advisor, Michael Morley.  Most importantly, Sandford Segal, who was my advisor at Rochester and a lifelong friend, first got me involved in the MAA by nominating me to the Committee on the Teaching of Undergraduate Mathematics.  This led to my learning about alternatives to lecturing, as we developed the Source Book for College Mathematics Teaching, and to the development of the Innovative Teaching Exchange, first in UME Trends and later on MAA Online.  It also led eventually to my involvement in assessment of undergraduate mathematics.  I was initially unenthusiastic about assessment – viewing it as an added administrative burden, as many mathematicians do – but got involved to try to prevent high-stakes testing from becoming the standard at the college level, as it has at the K-12 level.  However, thanks to my co-editor, Sandra Keith, I learned about classroom assessment techniques, small activities to learn what your students do and do not understand before they fail the test.  This has led to a considerable improvement in my students’ learning.  Participating in the national discussion of teaching mathematics also led me to develop a wide range of new courses at Monmouth to improve our future elementary teachers’ background as well as the quantitative literacy of our general education students.

There are several substantial rewards for getting involved in organizations such as the MAA that care about teaching.  You get to know and work with some wonderful people, and you also have a chance to have an impact beyond the university you teach at.  So, when a junior colleague of mine was not included in one of the first Project NExT cohorts, I started a state version in Indiana, NExT-IN, that did include him and many others who, for one reason or another, were not able to participate in the national project, and then, when I moved to New Jersey, started NJ-NExT as well.  I found little activity at mathematics meetings related to my interest in the philosophy of mathematics (beyond foundations).  So when Ed Dubinsky started the first SIGMAA, RUME, I was inspired to start the SIGMAA for the Philosophy of Mathematics – which is sponsoring three major activities at this meeting, and is co-sponsor of a fourth.  My point is, if you care about teaching, getting involved in one of the national organizations and helping develop programs to improve the experience of students and faculty is personally rewarding at the same time that it allows you to contribute to society.  I am grateful for all the opportunities I have been given, and encourage young faculty to become more involved beyond their own institutions.