Louise Hay Award

2013 Winner: Amy Cohen


The 2013 Louise Hay Award is presented to Amy Cohen in recognition of her contributions to mathematics education throughout an outstanding 40-year career at Rutgers University. Like Louise Hay, her career is remarkable for her achievements as a teacher, scholar, administrator, and human being. An elected fellow in AAAS, Amy has won many awards including the MAA’s Distinguished Service Award and a teaching award from her MAA Section.

She is principal investigator (PI) for the New Jersey Partnership for Excellence in Middle School Mathematics, an NSF funded Math and Science Partnership Program. As part of that grant, she led the development of a geometry course for teachers. Earlier curriculum work included new mathematics courses for elementary and high school teachers, the revision of her department’s precalculus program, and a course, “Introductory Algebra for Returning Adults.”

She has served as Dean of Rutgers’ University College, co-PI for her department’s VIGRE grant, and as a liaison to the School of Education, serving on many education committees.

Amy has made important contributions to mathematics education through her writing, the many talks she has given, and her service to professional organizations. For the MAA she has been a Project NExT consultant, member of the Committee on the Undergraduate Program in Mathematics, and chair of the committee to select the Leitzel Lecturer. For the AMS she was a member of the Committee on Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education. She is on the MSRI Education Advisory Committee and was on the organizing committee for two Critical Issues in Mathematics Education workshops. For the American Institute of Mathematics, she was a co-PI and organizer for two workshops on Finding and Keeping Graduate Students in the Mathematical Sciences. For AWM, Amy has served as Treasurer, member of the Education Committee, and as an AWM mentor. Amy Cohen richly deserves the Louise Hay Award.

Response from Amy Cohen:

It is an honor to receive this award—and a challenge to remain worthy of it. Expressions of sincere gratitude are due to many: (a) to AWM for supporting women in many paths through the world of mathematics; (b) to my teachers for guidance, for encouragement, and sometimes for evoking an obstinate desire to prove their nay-saying wrong; (c) to my students for both encouraging and challenging feedback; (d) to my parents who revised their feelings that math was an unsuitable job for a woman; and finally (e) to my son for thriving in the family business.

When I entered the profession, there was a broad consensus that women had to choose between teaching and research and that most should choose to teach. I am particularly grateful that the participation of women in our mathematics profession is now well-enough established that it is now okay for a female to be interested in both teaching and in research.

In an essay for a CBMS volume, I once argued that research was essentially easier than teaching because a researcher had so much more control than a teacher. Researchers can choose topics that suit their interests and strengths. A theorem doesn’t care whether it is proved. Teachers (including professors) can rarely influence the curriculum and the preparation of their classes, and students have all sorts of issues about being taught. There are serious intellectual questions about structuring instruction that engages learners and helps them learn math, especially those who don’t find mathematics “obvious.” Addressing those questions takes time and effort, but it can make teaching more satisfying for teachers as well as for learners. A recent Steele Prize winner once told me long ago,“Teaching is more fun when students learn.”