York math professor receives national education award

Walter Whiteley, math professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, is the recipient of the Canadian Mathematical Society’s 2009 Adrien Pouliot Award, given in recognition of his outstanding contribution to mathematics education.

Whiteley will receive the award at the society’s 2009 Winter Meeting, Dec. 5 to 7, in Windsor.

Walter Whiteley“Professor Whiteley is an acknowledged expert and innovator in the field of mathematics education and this award recognizes not only his commitment to and passion for mathematics education but the excellence of his contribution as well,” said Tony Lau, president of the society.

Right: Professor Walter Whiteley

“Professor Whiteley has made an outstanding contribution to the teaching and learning of mathematics in Quebec and Ontario and on the national and international stage,” noted Peter Taylor, chair of the society’s education committee. “His work has influenced teachers and students throughout our education system and his dedication to advancing mathematics, mathematics education, and, more recently, education policy at the national and provincial levels, makes him an ideal recipient of the 2009 Adrien Pouliot Award.”

Whiteley is one of a handful of Canadian mathematicians whose work is grounded in the mathematics education literature and who is a contributor to international math education studies, noted the society in a media release. The award also acknowledges his leadership and influence in the development of mathematics education. At the centre of his work, both in mathematics research and in education, is geometry, whether it be the rigidity of buildings or the flexibility of proteins, and his passion for this wonderful and tragically neglected subject gives focus and energy to his work.

Drawing on the rich variety of geometric experiences and the teaching of geometry to future and in-service teachers, Whiteley has made a noteworthy and influential contribution to research and development of tasks in visual reasoning (broadly and within mathematics), as well as in the teaching and learning of geometry. He is currently leading a working group within the Canadian Mathematics Education Forum on Early Years Geometry – working to rebuild geometry education from the early years on up.

Whiteley recently collaborated on the development of a new BSc/BA Mathematics for Education Program for students preparing for concurrent or consecutive education programs. This innovative program provides a common core curriculum, a rich background in pure and applied mathematics and statistics, as well as courses identified as key elements of the pre-service preparation, including Mathematics for Teaching Geometry, History of Mathematics and an integrative capstone course on Topics in Mathematics Education.

At a provincial level, Whiteley chaired the Council of Ontario Universities task force on the recent revisions of the Ontario Mathematics Curriculum and he followed this with a term as an elected director of the Ontario Association for Mathematics Education. Recently he hosted a one-day workshop on Bridging from Mathematics to Mathematics Education, and he continues to work towards strong collaborations between mathematics departments and faculties of education.

Professor Whiteley joined York’s Department of Mathematics & Statistics in 1992 and was awarded the University-Wide Teaching Award for senior full-time faculty in 2003.