News Release

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Trisha Thomas
Illustrative Mathematics

Illustrative Mathematics Names Dynamic and Visionary Educational Technology Leader Karl Nelson as CTO/COO

Tucson, AZ – July 24, 2017 – Illustrative Mathematics, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving mathematics instruction in U.S. schools through the development, sharing, and effective implementation of standards-based teaching resources, has announced Karl Nelson as its new Chief Technology and Chief Operations Officer. Mr. Nelson has extensive experience in both the development of open educational resources (OER) for K-12 schools and the implementation of educational technology. His skills and background, combined with his passion for K-12 education, will help advance Illustrative Mathematics’ mission to create a world where learners know, use, and enjoy mathematics.

Most recently, Mr. Nelson served as Chief Operating Officer for Open Up Resources, where he led product development activities, developed content quality assurance processes, and directed the implementation of new technologies within the organization. From 2010 to 2015, Mr. Nelson was Director of Digital Learning for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Washington state. In that role, he created Washington’s K-12 OER project and was the state lead for the K-12 OER Collaborative, a multi-state effort to develop OER. He was also lead policy maker for digital education, responsible for the development and implementation of an online provider approval process, rule writing, and providing technical support to districts.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better fit than Karl for this new position with Illustrative Mathematics,” said Lisa O’Masta, Chief Executive Officer. “His experience working within school districts to implement OER will provide us with valuable insight into how we can further tailor our resources and services to meet the needs of educators. That, coupled with his time leading product development and streamlining processes at a nonprofit similar to our own, gives Karl truly unique insights and abilities.”

According to Mr. Nelson, “Illustrative Mathematics is just the type of organization where I feel I can make a real impact on our education system and the lives of students. Since early in my career I have focused on how technology can be used to improve both organizational operations as well as teaching and learning. In this role with Illustrative Mathematics, I will get to leverage my skills in both of these areas.”

One of Mr. Nelson’s first responsibilities with Illustrative Mathematics will be to guide the development and launch of the Guided Customization Tool (GCT) for the Illustrative Mathematics Middle School Curriculum launching later this summer in partnership with Open Up Resources. “Research with both classroom teachers and administrators points to a real need for tools that enable teachers to customize core curriculum materials to meet the unique needs of their students while preserving pedagogical integrity,” shared Ms. O’Masta. GCT will be a cloud-based platform that will ensure the safe customization of the Middle School Curriculum, as well as provide a place for teachers around the world to share and discuss their customizations and work together to support the effective implementation of the curriculum. “GCT will really benefit from Karl’s experience working with educators at the OSPI in Washington state. He knows first-hand the different needs and priorities of teachers and school leaders and how we can marry those into a powerful online resource.”

The Illustrative Mathematics Board of Directors and staff are pleased to welcome Mr. Nelson and look forward to his leadership and his contributions to the organization’s next phase of growth.

Illustrative Mathematics Founder Dr. William McCallum Joins Other Educational Technology Leaders to Judge the Prestigious SIAA CODiE Awards

Phoenix, AZ – June 6, 2017 – Each year the SIIA CODiE Awards recognize thousands of software, information and education technology companies for achieving excellence. The awards have two divisions, business technology and education technology. With 35 categories in the education technology category alone, the judging is a huge undertaking. Illustrative Mathematics is proud to have founder and president Dr. William McCallum participate as a 2017 CODiE judge to help identify and recognize the most innovative and visionary edtech products on the market.

As a noted mathematician and standards author, Dr. McCallum brings a unique eye to evaluating the impact of educational technology products on teaching and learning. He is a judge for the Best Mathematics Instructional Solution category. “It’s been a truly enlightening and enjoyable experience to review so many outstanding products and to see the direction the industry is going,” shared Dr. McCallum. “I’ve been impressed by many of the programs submitted to this year’s CODiE Awards.”

In 2009–2010 Dr. McCallum was one of the lead writers for the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics. He is a University Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at the University of Arizona and has worked both in mathematics research, in the area of number theory and arithmetical algebraic geometry, and in mathematics education, writing textbooks and advising researchers and policy makers. He holds a Ph. D. in Mathematics from Harvard University and a B.Sc. from the University of New South Wales.

First round judges’ evaluation of the nominated products will conclude May 26 and the 2017 CODiE Award finalists will be announced June 12. The winners will be honored at a gala event held at the InterContinental Hotel San Francisco on July 26. For more information about attending the SIIA EdTech Business Awards, visit

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.