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2016 Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics

Glen Van Brummelen, Quest University

Professor Glen Van Brummelen is described as a dedicated and practical teacher of mathematics. He has thought deeply about how to motivate complex mathematical ideas for his students and has mentored other faculty in his department to do the same. By focusing on why a student should learn the material at hand, rather than presenting the material as knowledge to be learned, he allows students to see the cohesive story behind the formal language. His colleagues describe Professor Van Brummelen’s students as passionate about mathematics and inspired to learn the importance and the history of the subject. Notably, Professor Van Brummelen received the highest teaching evaluation scores of all faculty at a university ranked number one in North America in the National Survey of Student Engagement. Of course, perfect scores by every student are impossible for another faculty member to beat, regardless of the institution, and perfect scores are precisely what he managed to achieve! He also earned the highest average scores this past year.

As a founding faculty member at Quest University, Professor Van Brummelen has had great influence on the teaching of mathematics at his institution. He served as a lead writer of the learning objectives document for the university, the initiator of monthly faculty pedagogical discussion groups, and was the original designer of the mathematics portion of the foundation program. His influence has expanded beyond his institution by the example he has set for his students, many of whom are now teaching in places around the world such as Vermont, Texas, and Pakistan. He has also taught mathematics to the broader community through his MAA mini courses and his published books that address accessible and provocative questions at the root of mathematics. Glen’s invited address on Ptolemy’s model of planetary motion at the 2010 AMS/MAA Joint Meetings in San Francisco was one more example of making mathematics relevant and interesting to a broad audience.

Professor Van Brummelen’s passion for teaching also goes beyond his own classroom with the substantial work he has done in serving two terms as president of the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Mathematics, his current appointment to the Education Committee in the Canadian Mathematical Society, and Governor-at-Large for Canadian members of the MAA. He is dedicated to strengthening these organizations which focus on the teaching of mathematics, because this work will in turn strengthen the teaching of mathematics on a global scale.

Whether creating curriculum and learning objectives, giving an invited address, serving as a plenary lecturer at MathPath, writing a new book, or participating in the leadership of multiple national mathematics professional organizations, Professor Van Brummelen is a leader in mathematics education.

Glen Van Brummelen is coordinator of mathematics at Quest University. After receiving his B.Sc. in mathematics from the University of Alberta, he went off in search of context, studying the history of mathematics for his M.Sc. and Ph.D. with Len Berggren at Simon Fraser University. He has taught at The King’s University (Edmonton), Bennington College (VT), and is one of the five founding faculty of Quest University, starting in 2006. His passion for the mathematics of different cultures led him to explore ancient and medieval mathematical astronomy, leading to his The Mathematics of the Heavens and the Earth: The Early History of Trigonometry (Princeton, 2009) and Heavenly Mathematics: The Forgotten Art of Spherical Trigonometry (Princeton, 2013), which was short-listed for the Neumann Prize and selected a Choice Outstanding Academic Title of 2013. He has authored fifty publications, several with undergraduate students, both in the history of mathematics and in its uses in teaching. In addition to establishing the innovative mathematics program at Quest University, Glen has been there at the beginning of several other educational initiatives. He was the founding program coordinator of HOMSIGMAA; has taught at the summer camp MathPath (for elite eleven–fourteen year olds) since its first year in 2002; and serves on the advisory board of Proof School, a new middle/high school for mathematics students in San Francisco that opened this past September.

I’m extremely grateful for this recognition, fully aware that the MAA is chock full of teachers every bit as deserving. My career has blessed me with a incredible wealth of opportunities. I was born into a family of insightful educators—my father Harro, who was instrumental in designing a teacher education program; and my mother Wilma and siblings Tim and Yolanda, all of whom have been outstanding teachers. How can you not reflect deeply about how to teach and learn when it is on everyone’s lips, all the time? As a rookie teacher at The King’s University in Edmonton I found myself mentored by science education visionaries Brian Martin and Peter Mahaffy. Daily I watched them place the student first, and treat their discipline as a verb rather than a noun. At Bennington College I had the all-too-rare freedom to try, to fail, and to learn from it. Over the last decade I have worked with some of the most gifted teachers in North America at the summer camp MathPath. They have enhanced my appreciation of the beauty and diversity of mathematics, a subject that after twenty-five years still holds an endless capacity to surprise me. At Quest University I have come to appreciate that it takes a village to raise a math student. My colleagues (Ryan Derby-Talbot, Richard Hoshino, Chris Stewart, and our Project NExT fellow Sarah Mayes-Tang) may be the four most creative teachers I have ever met, and wonderful people besides. Finally, from the people who share my classroom every day, I have learned that we don’t teach math...we teach students. Understand them, and the math will follow.

My greatest thanks to the MAA. I hope I will prove to be a worthy recipient by continuing to grow in a way that honors my mentors, supports my colleagues, and cultivates my students.