Louise Hay Award

2014 Winner: Sybilla Beckmann


The 2014 Louise Hay Award is presented to Sybilla Beckmann, Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor of Mathematics at the University of Georgia, in recognition of her vision, persistence, and leadership in enhancing the teaching and learning of mathematics in this country and beyond.  Her work is based on her insight that sustainable improvement in mathematics education can only occur when the mathematical culture in the schools and the universities is “built on respect for the innate mathematical abilities that are the birthright of every student.”  She has worked to energize every link of this chain, from the daily challenges that teachers face in their classrooms to the highest levels of the national discussions of K-12 education.

Sybilla has made substantial contributions to Galois theory.  She began her career as a Gibbs Instructor at Yale University and has been at the University of Georgia since 1988.  More bravely, she taught sixth grade for a year and volunteered at another elementary school where she “started a math revolution.”  Her redesigned mathematics courses for prospective elementary teachers led to her highly regarded and widely adopted textbook, and she created the Mathematicians Educating Future Teachers program.  She was a writer of the NCTM’s Curriculum Focal Points for PreKindergarten through Grade Eight and two supplemental books.  She played a significant role in writing the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics and was the lead writer on the elementary grades for The Mathematical Education of Teachers II.

Response from Sybilla Beckmann:

As a longtime member of AWM, I am thrilled and deeply honored to receive this award. I hope I can use it to draw attention to the need for all of us who teach math – at any level – to join together to make the mathematics teaching community a strong, vibrant, and intellectually engaging one. We need to think together about mathematics teaching, and to vet, use, and build on the best ideas about it. We need to own our profession and take pride in it.

Louise Hay said “that sources of inspiration and opportunities to change your life can come unexpectedly and should not be ignored; and that you should not neglect the dictates of your own career, taking some risks if necessary,” words with which I wholeheartedly agree. It is still a surprise to me that mathematics education has become my passion. I am so grateful to so many people for helping me pursue this passion. My wonderful family has put up with all the time and intensity I devote to my work. My extraordinary Department of Mathematics at the University of Georgia has given me unfailing support, even as I have chosen a path quite different from the usual one in a math department. My colleagues in mathematics education at the University of Georgia and across the country have welcomed me, worked with me, and taught me so much. But especially, thank you to AWM—a uniquely positive, personal, and encouraging organization—for this special honor.