Greenes receives major award

Carole Greenes was selected to receive the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Since 2010, Greenes has served as director of Arizona State University’s Practice Research and Innovation in Mathematics Education (PRIME) Center, and as professor of mathematics education in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Greenes was dean of ASU’s School of Educational Innovation and Teacher Preparation on the Polytechnic campus from 2007–09, and associate vice provost for STEM education from 2009–14. She continues to serve as director of the PRIME Center.

As a teenager, Greenes aspired to have a career in music and theater. She played piano and violin. At 16, she was a member of the Cleveland Women’s Symphony. She earned a degree in English, theater arts and music at the University of Michigan.

While at Michigan, Greenes also took math courses “because they were easy for me.” After graduating from college, Greenes taught public school during her husband’s medical training in Boston. After teaching for two years and looking for extra money to support the young couple, Greenes applied for a part-time position to tutor athletes in mathematics at Boston University.

“I always liked to make up weird math games and write unusual problems so that others want to solve them,” Greenes says. After her tutoring helped baseball and football players improve their math grades, and they started to like math, the provost for athletics asked her to take a full-time position teaching required undergraduate courses for athletes. But, said the provost, “You really have to have a doctoral degree.” She responded, “Well I can’t afford to do a doctoral program.” They replied, “We’ll take care of it.” Boston University also gave her a salary. For four years, she was teaching five courses a semester while taking three.

Greenes earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in mathematics education while serving as a full-time member of the BU faculty. That’s also where she began the other major facet of her career. “I had an advisor who told me that it’s important to start writing from the get-go, so I started writing books and articles,” she says. Her first book, “Problem Solving in the Mathematics Laboratory,” was published in 1972. More than 300 books have followed.

Many years later, Greenes would combine her three career pursuits — research, teaching and writing — at ASU. As director of the PRIME Center, she oversees initiatives to increase pre-kindergarten, elementary, middle school, high school and college students’ success in the study of the sciences, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science.

During one project, Greenes and the PRIME Center’s executive director, Mary Cavanagh, research assistant professor in Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, created a math puzzle, the MATHadazzle. Students and teachers taking part in the center’s research projects enjoyed the MATHadazzle puzzle so much they began writing puzzles. The center collected and edited contributions and published them in the “MATHadazzles Mind Stretch Puzzles” series. Volumes 1–3 were created by middle school teachers, volumes 4 and 5 by middle school students, volumes 6–8 by high school students, and the latest, volumes 9 and 10 by students in grades 2 and 3. Several of the student contributors have requested that more MATHadazzles be created. Says Greenes, “They continue to approach me with new ideas. How can you refuse students who want to spend more time doing math?”

In addition to her many other publications, Greenes is editor of the Arizona Association of Teachers of Mathematics semi-annual journal, OnCore, and author of the online monthly “MATHgazine Senior” (grades 8–12) and MATHgazine Junior (grades 4–8), both of which are made available to Arizona students, teachers and families at no cost.

Among Greenes’ current research projects is App Maker Pro, funded by the National Science Foundation. AMP is a three-year project that capitalizes on the technology interests and talents of high school students to increase their interest in STEM fields and invites high school teachers to enhance their knowledge of technology applications to promote student learning. They do this by analyzing apps in particular domains and then designing new ones. Each AMP participant spends 21 months in the project. Each Design Village is co-led by an expert in the domain field and another in technology.

Greenes says university research such as hers plays a vital role in improving STEM education in the U.S. “There are wonderful researchers here at ASU and across the country who are doing major research into how students learn mathematics,” she says. “They’re finding pedagogical methods we can employ to engage those students and at the same time enhance their enjoyment of the process of exploring mathematics.

“My research has been with students beginning at pre-kindergarten through college, trying to help them reveal their talents, and capitalizing on those to get them smarter,” Greenes says. “Every single one of my research projects has tried to do that. These students have so much talent that hasn’t been tapped or revealed. Students don’t even know how much they know until you put them into a situation where they have to bring that to bear to solve a problem. And once that happens, we have unbelievable results.”