Mary Kay Tornrose
Reshaping Mathematics Teaching

There is widespread agreement that today’s students of mathematics need to know more than their multiplication tables and how to factor polynomials. The workplace of the future will require workers who can use calculators and computers, estimate quantities, and apply mathematical principles to solve practical problems. This is an exciting and challenging time for people like Mary Kay Tornrose, the mathematics coordinator for the public schools of Newton, Massachusetts.

One of Mary Kay’s major tasks is to keep teachers and the schools informed about new ideas in mathematics instruction. “I try to broaden the perspective of what success in mathematics is,” she explains. In emphasizing conceptual understanding of mathematics, together with computational skills, Mary Kay gets students to “see mathematics as a dynamic study, not just as a finished subject.” For instance, students often believe that, in mathematics, every question has only one answer. “But some questions have no answers, or multiple answers,” she explains.

Mary Kay stresses the importance of team work among students, the daily use of calculators in class, and the ability to communicate about mathematics. She is also hoping to develop new testing methods that give a more complete picture of students’ mathematical skills than do the traditional multiple-choice examinations.

Mary Kay grew up in Syracuse, New York. “I always liked mathematics and science,” she notes, “and I knew I wanted to teach,” so she majored in mathematics education at the State University of New York in Potsdam and then went on to earn her master’s degree in mathematics education at Northeastern University. She taught junior high school and high school for a number of years and also worked for a publisher of mathematics and science textbooks and materials. She has had her present job as mathematics coordinator for more than ten years.

What Mary Kay likes best about her work is the variety. “There are a lot of different projects and groups of people I work with—parents, administrators, teachers, students,” she notes. “It’s challenging to work with so many different groups.” In addition, she finds working in education very satisfying. “I find anything to do with children very rewarding,” she remarks. “It’s such a thrill to see them enjoy mathematics… I find it extremely rewarding to I work toward developing a new generation of adults who like mathematics, who will pursue mathematically-based careers, and feel confident in doing so.

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This brochure was published in 1991, so some information may be out-of-date.

Copyright ©1991, 2018 Association for Women in Mathematics. All rights reserved.