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C&I Professor Adam Poetzel makes mark on mathematics education, wins prestigious Max Beberman Award

Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 18:10

Adam Poetzel, clinical assistant professor in Curriculum and Instruction, is the recipient of the prestigious 2013 Max Beberman Award, bestowed by the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Among other requirements, winners of the Beberman Award must have performed outstanding service in the mathematics field in one of two ways: by providing leadership at the state or national level or to have made outstanding contributions to research in mathematics education. Recipients must also have authored a significant number of publications in the field.

Meeting the requirements is only part of the reason Poetzel won the award; his nominators speak to the difference he has made and continues to make. "The most powerful impact a teacher educator can have is to move future teachers in positive directions. Adam does that as a natural component of who he is," one nominator wrote. "His passion for mathematics, for teaching, and for students drives his path in life. Everyone who gets to spend time on that path is better for the journey."

Another nominator, a former student, writes about the reasons he admired Professor Poetzel and enjoyed being part of his class. "First I loved his passion for the study of mathematics. Right from the beginning it was clear to me that he firmly believed that great math teachers never lose their desire to keep learning more mathematics," the student wrote. "Second, I really liked his passion for sharing the power and beauty of mathematics with students of all levels… I had met a lot of people who were very passionate about studying and researching mathematics, and I had met many people who were very passionate about education," the student recalled. "However, I had found very few who were truly passionate about both."

According to Peter Braunfeld, a previous Beberman Award winner, Max Beberman (1925–1971) began his career in the early 1950's as a young math instructor at the University of Illinois' Laboratory School (Uni High). Dissatisfied with current teaching practices of the time, he began to create innovative curriculum materials for the classes he was teaching. In 1957, in response to the launching of Sputnik, the Federal Government initiated a massive national program to improve the quality of math and science instruction in the United States. In particular, NSF launched several well-funded national curriculum projects, including Beberman’s University of Illinois Committee on School Mathematics (UICSM). Over time, UICSM became one of the most influential and admired curriculum projects in the U.S., and Beberman became one of the towering figures in math education—not only in the U.S., but all over the world.