Eric Stade is the newest recipient of the American Mathematical Society’s Award for Impact in the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics.
This prestigious award, which began in 2013, recognizes Stade, a University of Colorado Boulder professor of mathematics, for not only his sustainable and replicable contributions to the mathematics education of students in the first two years of college, but also his work with improving high school math education.
“This particular award is an honor to me because this award is meant to recognize those teaching lower division mathematics and to teach people who will go on to teach elementary mathematics, and this has always been very important to me,” says Stade.
Over the past 10 years, Stade has worked with the Department of Mathematics to reform the way professors teach conventional mathematics. In pre-calculus and calculus, Stade, along with other faculty, have shifted the curriculum to a discovery-based program, which replaces some traditional lectures with interactive problems.
“I like to think of it as guided discovery,” says Stade. “Students are really taking responsibility over their own learning and taking the lead on creating their own knowledge instead of having it fed to them through a lecture.”
Stade is not only responsible for teaching, but also instructing future teachers. He works as the director of the Sewell Residential Academic Program, which serves students who want to pursue teaching.
And, as a part of his work with teachers, Stade has led a service-learning project called “A Community of Mathematics Teachers and Learners,” which is supported by a CU Boulder Outreach Award, partners with the Boulder Valley School District to improve the teaching of mathematics.
“A Community of Mathematics Teachers and Learners” recruits undergraduate and graduate students go into schools to help out with various academic programs, such as math club, presentations and tutoring.
“A Community of Mathematics Teachers and Learners” also works with high school teachers to enhance mathematics instruction to help get low-income and under-represented students to better prepare them for college. The largest aspect of good teaching is meeting people where they are, Stade explains. An effective teacher must figure out what material is close to the student’s knowledge base in order to make that next jump.
Stade began to focus on teaching future educators in the early 2000s when he was assigned to teach the elementary mathematics education course at CU Boulder.
“I found that the challenge of teaching mathematics to future elementary school teachers—many of whom were not mathematics majors, and, indeed, often afraid of math—was rewarding. After I helped turn people around and help them realize that mathematics was a beautiful subject, instead of one to be feared, I really began to be interested in teaching future mathematics teachers.”
Judith Packer, a CU Boulder professor of mathematics who was one of three fellow faculty members who nominated Stade for the award, says it is well deserved: "Eric is an absolute rock star of a teacher and mentor at all levels, and for many years has served as an inspiration by example to all educators in our department. Not only students in CU Boulder, but also all of us in the Department of Mathematics, CU Boulder and the community at large are fortunate that he is our colleague."
Alexander Gorokhovsky, professor and chair of math, concurred, notes that Stade was one of the architects of a plan that replaced almost all of the department’s large lecture calculus classes with small sections. “He has long worked to change the landscape of teaching throughout the department, improving all of our instruction,” Gorokhovsky says.