December 2 Day 999: Mathematical Cooperation

It was a full day’s meeting at the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences. Presidents, Executive Directors, and friends of 19 different mathematics organizations met to work together and support each other in their efforts to promote research, improve education, and expand the uses of mathematics. It’s a great group of people and I am honored to be a part of it.

A disturbing report came from Ebony Walton and Grady Wilburn of the National Center for Education Statistics. They presented results from the recently released NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) report. Learning loss since COVID is real. The decline in mathematics scores for grades 4 and 8 from 2019 to 2022, was the largest EVER (at least since the data have been collected.)

There will be no “quick fix” here. As people research to understand why the loss happened, I ask “what are we doing to improve learning outcomes for the future?” Now is the time to increase engagement, double down on active learning, leverage the assets our students bring to the classroom, and meet them where they are —-across the board— K-16. Perhaps the necessity to address the immediate concerns over learning loss will spark a change for the better throughout the education sphere?

Other presentations resonated strongly and connected to ideas that I have written about in the past.

  • David Mandersheid, NSF Director for the Division of Mathematical Sciences, spoke about the importance of contributions to the profession beyond curiosity driven research. He hinted that traditional measures of merit do not match the goals that we say are important. (Sounds a bit like this opinion piece in the AMS Notices.)
  • Dave Kung, Director of Policy at the Dana Center, in his follow up to the CBMS FORUM on pathways from high school to college, focused on the importance of messaging. How we present mathematics to the public matters. (Sounds a bit like this President’s Message on What is Mathematics? in MAA Focus.)
  • Following up on the CBMS Statement of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the Mathematical Sciences, societies shared successes and challenges of the last year along with brainstorms for moving forward together. One small success was an MAA webinar in best practices in faculty hiring (shared in this MAA Focus article, If you don’t improve faculty hiring now, you’ll kick yourself later.)

I am heartened by today’s work. In the end, I believe that the mathematical societies are more alike than they are different. Each one has a unique niche in the mathematical ecosystem. However, we are all working to promote mathematics and spread its joy in our own ways. On that final note, while finding links to previous article, I noticed that the December/January MAA Focus is available online. It contains my final President’s Message, the Power of Love. Yes, it’s schmaltzy..but it is unapologetically me.

And to MAA Focus Editor Allison Henrich, you are most welcome. Thank you for the platform and leniency with deadlines. For those that have not yet read the letter from the editor in the most recent issue of MAA Focus, I quote

Before I leave you to enjoy this issue of MAA FOCUS, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to MAA President Jenny Quinn for leading us with such positive energy, joy, and playfulness through these last couple of dark and difficult years. Jenny, you never stop being a ray of sunshine in our community. Thank you for being you and for serving us so brilliantly.

Allison Henrich, From the Editor, MAA Focus, December 2022/January 2023.

I’m blushing.

Published by Jenny Quinn

Mathematician. Mother. Wife. Leader. I am a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington Tacoma. Mother of Anson and Zachary. Wife to Mark. President of the Mathematical Association of America.

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