Cathy Kessel

Twenty-Seventh Annual Louise Hay Award

AWM established the Louise Hay Award to recognize outstanding achievements and contributions in any area of mathematics education. While Louise Hay was widely recognized for her contributions to mathematical logic and for her strong leadership, her devotion to students and her lifelong commitment to nurturing the talent of young women and men secure her reputation as a consummate educator. The annual presentation of this award is intended to highlight the importance of mathematics education and to evoke the memory of all that Hay exemplified as a teacher, scholar, administrator, and human being.


The AWM presents the 2017 Louise Hay Award to Dr. Catherine Kessel. Dr. Kessel’s clear, crisp scholarship has shaped the reports of investigations ranging from studies of mathematics curricula in East Asia to characterizations of East Asian teachers’ shared knowledge of mathematics teaching (with implications for the professional development of U.S. mathematics teachers) to the design and development of mathematics standards in the U.S. As a mathematician who possesses a unique ability for editing text, Dr. Kessel transforms what mathematicians write into a form readable by mathematics educators and the general public, without sacrificing precision. She also transforms what mathematics education researchers write into a form readable by mathematicians unfamiliar with the education literature.

Just as critically, Dr. Kessel’s contributions span the domains of school mathematics curricula, expectations defining the development of prospective and practicing teachers of mathematics, and mathematics assessment. She fosters productive interactions between often non-communicating communities. Her public writings have been “a source of scholarship, evidence, and intellectual accountability in the debate” surrounding the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.

Dr. Kessel has amassed a rich record of service, frequently addressing equity in education in general and women and mathematics in particular, based partly on her own work in the field of gender and mathematics. Through her mentoring, she has influenced the professional lives of aspiring and practicing mathematicians and mathematics educators.

A mathematician and educator fully reflective of the tradition of Louise Hay, Cathy Kessel is richly deserving of the 2017 Louise Hay Award.


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.

Although all my degrees are in mathematics, I’ve come to know education research and researchers, thanks to many at the School of Education at Berkeley, particularly Alan Schoenfeld. In learning about research on gender I’ve been fortunate to have the guidance of Marcia Linn.

Although I flunked my undergraduate writing exam, I’ve become an editor. Editing begins with reading and writing, and helping someone to improve these can be amazingly labor-intensive. Thanks to the University of Chicago writing program and all who took time to criticize my reading and writing (in, about, and outside of mathematics): teachers, co-authors, friends, colleagues, reviewers.

Helping someone learn to edit is also labor-intensive. Thanks to Alan Schoenfeld for an entrée, and many others for editing opportunities and advice. I’ve been fortunate to work with many writers who have graciously responded to questions, helping me better understand their thinking.

Although most of my life has been in the U.S. and I speak no Asian language, I’ve been able to learn about East Asian mathematics education from Catherine Lewis, Global Education Resources, Myong-Hi Kim, and many years of work with Liping Ma.

Although I’ve been a solitary consultant much of my life, I’ve benefited from interaction with the mathematical community, thanks to several organizations, including Mathematicians and Education Reform (and Naomi Fisher), and especially the Association for Women in Mathematics.