News Release

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Trisha Thomas
Illustrative Mathematics

Mad River Local School District Improves Mathematics Instruction with Professional Learning Support from the Non-Profit Illustrative Mathematics

Modeling and coaching help elementary teachers deepen their understanding of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and how to implement the standards using GO Math! *

Phoenix, AZ – May 24, 2017 – Elementary teachers throughout the Mad River Local School District near Dayton, OH, are entering their classrooms with renewed confidence in and enthusiasm for teaching math. Partnering with Illustrative Mathematics, a non-profit dedicated to providing guidance to states, districts, curriculum writers, and assessment writers to help improve mathematics education, Mad River’s teachers are now empowered to deliver focused, coherent, rigorous mathematical practices in their classrooms using the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt curriculum, GO Math! The foundation of the district’s success was a one-day professional learning workshop and ongoing coaching from the district’s math coaches.

“During our first year with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), we quickly realized that in order to provide more effective guidance to teachers in reshaping their classroom practice to meet the standards, our coaching team needed to deepen their own understanding of the standards and their impact on instruction,” shared Mad River Instructional Coach, Amy Holbrook. The district was using K-5 Guidance Documents from Student Achievement Partners to align GO Math! to CCSS, but teachers were craving additional information and direction. The Mad River team was introduced to Illustrative Mathematics by Student Achievement Partners as an organization that could help provide further support in the comprehension and implementation of CCSS using GO Math!

Illustrative Mathematics’ professional learning service team designed a one-day workshop to help Mad River coaches and teachers better understand the standards. Participants learned to:

  • Interpret the guidance documents aligning GO Math! with CCSS.
  • Identify extraneous content within GO Math! based on the standards.
  • Supplement gaps with high-quality, freely available resources through Illustrative Mathematics, LearnZillion, and Engage NY.

Additionally, the Illustrative Mathematics certified facilitator modeled the use of the guidance documents with fraction progressions so that educators could experience what they’d learned in action.

“Our Illustrative Mathematics facilitator dramatically grew our knowledge base and has started to reframe our understanding of the work ahead and better ways to meet the needs of teachers and students,” commented Ms. Holbrook. Following the Illustrative Mathematics workshop, district math coaches worked collaboratively with classroom teachers to develop an action plan using the progression documents. The plan includes implementing Illustrative Mathematics free tasks in the classroom and working with teachers to encourage the consistent use of the new instructional practices that were modeled in the workshop and by coaches.

“Teachers are eager to learn and are looking for ways to enhance their instructional practices so that their students can be successful with the standards. Mad River recognized the need to support teachers as they strive to meet standards and improve students’ learning experiences,” said Lisa O’Masta, CEO of Illustrative Mathematics. “We are honored to have the opportunity to work with the exceptional educators in the district.”

Learn more about Illustrative Mathematics’ IM Learning GO Math! professional learning workshops at

*GO Math! is a registered trademark of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Kristin Umland Honored by the American Mathematical Society for Her Contributions and Dedication to the Improvement of K-12 Mathematics Education

May 8, 2017 – Illustrative Mathematics is pleased to announce that Kristin Umland, Vice President for Content Development, has received the 2017 American Mathematical Society (AMS) Award for Impact on the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics. The award is given each year to a mathematician who has made significant contributions of lasting value to mathematics education. Dr. Umland’s contributions include her role in the development of the nonprofit organization Illustrative Mathematics.

"Kristin Umland has worked with energy, vision, and commitment on improving mathematics education at the precollege level," said Tara Holm of Cornell University, who served as chair of the Impact Award selection committee. "She brings high-level mathematical knowledge together with deep understanding of the needs of school mathematics teachers. Her work at Illustrative Mathematics makes quality materials available to millions of teachers and also serves as an effective means for professional development. We are happy to recognize her outstanding work with the AMS Impact Award."

Prior to joining Illustrative Mathematics full time in 2016, Dr. Umland was on the faculty of the Mathematics and Statistics Department at the University of New Mexico. While there, she made significant improvements in the mathematics courses for both elementary and secondary pre-service teachers, adding rigor as well as more-relevant material. In 2011, her support of the national K-12 mathematics community in the transition to the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics (CCSS-M) led to her to collaborate with William McCallum of the University of Arizona, the leader of the CCSS-M writing team, to launch Illustrative Mathematics, a nonprofit organization created by mathematicians, mathematics educators, and teachers, that illustrates how CCSS-M can be effectively implemented.

“When I shared my vision for Illustrative Mathematics with Kristin back in 2010, I discovered that she was already thinking along the same lines about a community to support CCSS-M implementation,” said Dr. McCallum. “Kristin’s ability to strike the balance between mathematical integrity and the needs of students and teachers is unparalleled. Her work for Illustrative Mathematics has been both foundational and transformative. We would not be where we are today without her.” Today, the Illustrative Mathematics website receives an average of one million visitors viewing tasks per month.

As Vice President for Content Development, Dr. Umland has been instrumental in overseeing the development of more than 1,200 highly vetted tasks illustrating CCSS-M by a group of 100 editors and 550 reviewers. She is also the lead author of Open Up Resources Middle School Curriculum authored by Illustrative Mathematics, an Open Educational Resource math curriculum that will be released in July. Throughout her career, Dr. Umland has contributed deep mathematical knowledge and immeasurable support to K-12 educators as they work to prepare students for academic and college and career success, making her one of the outstanding mathematics educators working in the nation today.

Original article from the AMS can be found here.

Dr. Cathy Kessel Receives the Louise Hay Award from the Association for Women in Mathematics for Contributions in Mathematics Education

Phoenix, AZ – April 3, 2017 – Illustrative Mathematics is proud to announce that Senior Editor Cathy Kessel has received the Twenty-Seventh Annual Louise Hay Award from the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM). Established in 1991 and presented annually, the award recognizes women who have made outstanding contributions in mathematics education.

Cathy Kessel earned her Ph.D. in mathematics, specializing in mathematical logic, from the University of Colorado, Boulder and has taught mathematics at various institutions of higher education throughout the U.S. During the 1990s, she made the shift from being a mathematician to learning about research in mathematics education, auditing courses at the University of California at Berkeley, and observing and analyzing mathematics teaching and learning in the U.S. and Australia. These activities led to many publications with several education researcher co-authors, and to further work in mathematics education.

A standards, curriculum, or assessment document is often written by a group of writers from different backgrounds—mathematicians, mathematics education researchers, teachers, and other educators. In working with such groups of writers, Dr. Kessel has displayed the ability to edit what mathematicians write, making it readable by educators and the general public, and to edit what educators write, making it readable by mathematicians. Her talents have shaped discussions of mathematics education in the U.S., with works including the Progressions for the Common Core State Standards and The Mathematical Education of Teachers as well as descriptions of mathematics education in East Asia, such as Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics: Teachers’ Understanding of Fundamental Mathematics in China and the United States, Learning Across Boundaries: U.S.–Japan Collaboration in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, and Mathematics Curriculum, Teacher Professionalism, and Supporting Policies in Korea and the United States.

“For Cathy, mathematics is more than a career,” said Dr. William McCallum, Founder and President of Illustrative Mathematics. “She has dedicated years to making improvements in the field of mathematics education, and her impressive credentials prove her impact. We are honored to have an individual at Illustrative Mathematics who is as knowledgeable, versatile, and passionate as Cathy is. It’s rare to find a mathematics educator who is as equally talented a mathematician as a writer and editor. The field of mathematics should feel as honored to have her as a member of their community. This award is testament to that.”

Upon accepting the award, Dr. Kessel thanked her teachers and mentors. “Receiving this honor makes me very conscious of how many people have helped to improve my scholarship, writing, and editing, and deepen my knowledge of mathematics,” she said. Read Dr. Kessel’s full response, here.

As a Senior Editor at Illustrative Mathematics, Dr. Kessel serves as the lead copy editor for the middle school mathematics curriculum, providing feedback to writers on style and content.

About Illustrative Mathematics

Illustrative Mathematics is based on a mission of creating a world where learners know, use, and enjoy mathematics. Founded in 2011 at the University of Arizona, the organization has operated as an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit organization since 2013. Illustrative Mathematics collaborates with and provides guidance to states, districts, curriculum writers, and assessment writers to help improve mathematics education.