Professor Judith Jacobs Garners National Award

Professor Judith Jacobs Garners  National Award
Judith Jacobs has been awarded the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics? Lifetime Achievement Medal.

Long Cal Poly Pomona Math Professor Judith Jacobs has been awarded the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics' Lifetime Achievement Medal. The recognition places her among the upper echelons of math educators in the United States.

Jacobs, who is the director of the Center for Education and Equity in Mathematics, Science, and Technology (CEEMaST), recently received her award at the council's national conference in Atlanta, Ga.

“This award places Judith in very select company of extraordinary math educators and national leaders in math education,” says College of Science Dean Donald Straney. “I think we all know how hard Judith works and how much she has contributed to math education in our area. It is a real pleasure to have that contribution recognized nationally by her peers.”

Jacobs is the second math professor from Cal Poly Pomona to earn this top honor. Professor Emeritus Jack Price received the award a few years back. He also surprised Jacobs by nominating her for the award.

The self-described “New York Jewish Liberal Feminist,” has focused her research throughout the years exploring gender issues in mathematics. She searches for answers and solutions as to why fewer women study advanced mathematics and pursue careers in mathematics.  

“Consistently women choose not to go on in mathematics and math-related courses,” she says. “It's much better now than in 1973 when I did my dissertation, but it still happens.”

Jacobs, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., began teaching junior high school and high school mathematics 43 years ago.

Jacobs' direction to be a teacher of teachers was largely set in the summer of 1966, when she attended a National Science Foundation-funded six-week institute and met Robert B. Davis, the creator of The Madison Project.  

“Davis taught me more about myself as a mathematician and a mathematics teacher than I learned in all of my other experiences,” she recalls. “I became aware of why my students had trouble grasping mathematical concepts. Davis understood how to help students make sense of mathematics and helped me become a more skillful mathematics teacher.”

After spending the first half of her career on the East Coast, Jacobs moved to California in 1986 to teach at Cal Poly Pomona.

“Before someone can teach mathematics, they need to know mathematics. So I start there,” she says. “Mathematics has to make sense. It can't just be a set of rules you have to remember.”

Through CEEMaST, an educational community service offered by the College of Science, Jacobs works with local school districts to develop and conduct professional development training for teachers.

In the past 20 years, Jacobs has been instrumental in bringing over $6 million in grants for Cal Poly Pomona programs and partnership programs with area school districts.

Jacobs says she is incredibly pleased to have her accomplishments acknowledged by such a prestigious award of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

“This award says what I've been doing my whole life has mattered and made a contribution to the education of all children,” she says.