Susan Hoffmier, Auburn, CA, SusanHoffmier@cpm.org
CPM is proud to share that our friend, mentor, and leader Dr. Judy Kysh was awarded the Edward Begle Memorial Award at the California Mathematics Council’s Annual Conference at Asilomar conference grounds in Pacific Grove, CA, on December 3, 2022. “The Edward Begle Memorial Award recognizes an educator who has been supportive of CMC activities for a sustained period, has offered continual encouragement, and has been actively involved in California mathematics. Judy Kysh exemplifies the spirit of this award with her dedication to serving the mathematics community.”
Being publicly recognized for this award is congruous with Judy’s contribution to mathematics education. The guiding principles behind Dr. Begle’s work are the same principles that have driven much of Judy’s work throughout her professional career. Dr. Edward Begle researched teaching for understanding and he was the Director of the School Math Study Group (SMSG, better known as the “New Math”). Thank you, Dr. Begle.
Early on, Judy was uncertain whether she wanted to be a mathematics educator at all, but in 1962, she began teaching at Sir Francis Drake High School (recently renamed Archie Williams High School) in Marin, California. Together with a progressive math team, she helped create a vision of how rigorous mathematics could be available to all students. For the next decade, Judy and her colleagues worked toward that vision, creating new courses and alternative pathways for students, convincing administrators to buy tables to support collaborative group work, attending professional development workshops, and providing workshops for each other. Judy remained in the classroom for 18 years. Sixty years later, she continues to educate the mathematics community that the subject should be understood, not mimicked.
The next stop on her professional journey was becoming coordinator of a program at the Lawrence Hall of Science, working with high school Algebra 2 teachers in Oakland to create a rigorous curriculum for marginalized students.
In 1981, three University of California, Davis mathematics professors, among them Tom Sallee, put out a call to math educators. They wanted to create a mathematics project that would support teachers in transitioning from a traditional teaching approach to teaching for understanding and preparing students to be problem solvers. Judy joined the team and helped create the Northern California Mathematics Project (NCMP). In 1982, she was hired as its Director, and for 17 years, Judy led the project with the conviction that real change happens from within. Under her direction, NCMP empowered teams of classroom teachers to take risks and work towards mathematics instruction focused on problem-solving and understanding. During her tenure, the Project supported over 500 teachers and countless students while making mathematics an all-inclusive discipline.
As math teachers working with NCMP started to focus on reasoning, problem-solving, and supporting small learning groups, they ran into a problem. They felt restricted by the demands of their districts to cover all the content in the curriculum, which did not leave time for problem-solving. They needed a change in the way they were teaching!
In 1988, Judy, Tom Sallee, and Elaine Kasimatis submitted a proposal for a California Eisenhower grant. The intent was to create an algebra-geometry-algebra 2 curriculum based on understanding, reasoning, and problem-solving. This curriculum would draw from research and from practicing teachers’ experience and would be accessible to all students. With a small cadre of high school mathematics teachers, they conceived an innovative, problem-based curriculum. This was the beginning of CPM. As interest in the curriculum materials grew, the writers realized that teachers needed more than written teacher notes. They started leading workshops, first for each other and then for additional teachers who wanted to use them. Under Judy and Tom’s vision and leadership, the CPM curriculum grew from high school courses to include middle school and fourth-year high school courses. Today, CPM is used by hundreds of thousands of students throughout the United States and the world.
In 1999, Judy joined San Francisco State University’s faculty as a professor of Mathematics and Education. Throughout her twenty years as a professor there, she has mentored and helped shape the thinking of teaching candidates, Master’s students, current classroom teachers, and site leaders, always connecting her work at the University to the practices of math instruction.
Although “half retired,” Judy maintains her formidable impact on the mathematics community, challenging educators to refine their craft while keeping the focus on how mathematics should be rich and expansive for all students. She reminds the community that the vehicle to success is the commitment to educating the whole child by using research-based practices, learning from experience, and supporting teachers.
Judy is more than deserving of this award. The mission of the California Mathematics Council is, “CMC believes that all students can become mathematically competent and confident when provided a rigorous and challenging mathematical program supported by high expectations.” Judy has embraced CMC’s mission throughout her career and touched the lives of countless math educators, schools, and districts.
As a CPM community, let’s give Dr. Judy Kysh a collective shout-out for her vision of bringing More Math to More People! I am sure Dr. Edward Begle is thrilled his name-sake award now honors Judy for her relentless work in improving mathematics education for all.