University of Vermont

Gross Receives Highest Award from New England Math Teachers

Named an inaugural fellow of the American Mathematical Society earlier this year

Ken Gross
Kenneth Gross

Kenneth I. Gross, Azarias Williams Professor of Mathematics, has been honored with the Association of Teachers of Mathematics in New England’s highest award, The Rev. Stanley J. Bezuska Lifetime Service Award for Teaching and Learning. 

The award cites two initiatives Gross launched, the Vermont Mathematics, Science, and Technology High School Summer Enrichment Institute, now the Governor's Institute in the Mathematical Sciences; and the Vermont Mathematics Initiative (VMI), a program that trains elementary and middle school teachers to be mathematics leaders in their schools. It also highlights the impact of his work on mathematics teaching in Vermont and nationally. 

The award is just the most recent of his accolades. In January of this year, Gross was named to the inaugural class of fellows of the American Mathematical Society. The program recognizes members who have made “outstanding contributions to the creation, exposition, advancement, communication and utilization of mathematics.”

Gross is a pioneer and national leader in promoting the importance of providing in-depth mathematics content knowledge to K-6 teachers, the guiding principle of the Vermont Mathematics Initiative. VMI came into being in 1999 as school districts in Vermont, and across the country, were grappling with a new generation of integrated K-6 math instructional programs, like Mathland and Discover Math, that required even early grade teachers to have a sophisticated understanding of mathematical concepts. VMI has since enrolled more than 400 Vermont teachers from 90 percent of Vermont’s school districts.

The success of the Vermont Mathematics Initiative led to the adoption of similar programs in eight states, including Massachusetts, where Gross implemented the VMI program while a visiting professor at Lesley University in Cambridge, one of the country’s leading teacher development schools. The program Gross established at Lesley, the Center for Mathematics Achievement, is still a driving force in the school’s curriculum for teacher training in mathematics.

This summer Pennsylvania State University launched a program, the Pennsylvania Mathematics Initiative, modeled on VMI.

Program director George E. Andrews, Evan Pugh Professor of Mathematics at Penn State, began looking at programs to improve math teaching at the elementary level when he served as president of the American Mathematical Society. “One of the most striking out there was Ken’s program,” he said. “A number of people have done good work in this area, but Ken is the spearhead. VMI has a 10-year track record of success. He’s done a great service not just for the people of Vermont, but for the country.”

“The success of VMI is due in large part to the dedication, talent, and commitment of the many elementary and middle school teachers who enrolled in the VMI program and to my talented colleagues, Judi Laird, Bob Laird, and Susan Ojala, who form the current leadership of the VMI,” Gross said. “The VMI is a classic illustration of the adage that great students make for great teachers.”

The VMI recently received a grant from the Vermont Agency of Education to extend its teacher professional development programs to grades nine through 12.

Gross has also received the Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching, the Chauvenet Prize, and the Lester R. Ford Award from the Mathematics Association of America, as well as the University Scholar Award and the George V. Kidder Outstanding Faculty Member Award from the University of Vermont.

Gross has twice served as program director at the National Science Foundation, once in research and once in education. His research publications in group representations, harmonic analysis, and special functions total more 1,000 pages, and he is the editor of three books.