UChicago STEM Education staff came together in person and virtually on December 10, 2021 to celebrate the career of Andy Isaacs and thank him for his many years of service to UChicago STEM Education, Everyday Mathematics, and The University of Chicago School Mathematics Project (UCSMP). Isaacs retired from The University of Chicago at the end of December. At the December 10 retirement gathering, Isaacs was saluted by numerous guests who have collaborated with him over the years on a wide range of projects.
Isaacs served as UChicago STEM Education’s director or co-director since its founding in 2002 as the Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education, overseeing one of the country’s leading mathematics and science education research and development centers. In addition to directing the Center, Isaacs played a lead role in many of the Center’s programs involving curriculum development, teacher professional development, teacher preparation, and research.
Isaacs is best known for his leadership role with Everyday Mathematics. He was appointed as the Director of Everyday Mathematics Revisions in 2003, following completion of the program’s second edition. He succeeded his mentor, Everyday Mathematics founder Max Bell, in the role of Everyday Mathematics director. Since then, he has directed the design, development, and educational engineering for Everyday Mathematics and has been the liaison between UChicago STEM Education and the commercial publisher for Everyday Mathematics, McGraw Hill Education. Under Isaacs’s leadership, Everyday Mathematics became one of the country’s leading PK–6 mathematics programs, and, for a while, the single most widely used program in the country.
Isaacs joined the UCSMP team at The University of Chicago in 1995 as associate director of the Bridges to Classroom Mathematics project, which created professional development tools for teachers of Everyday Mathematics and other cutting-edge elementary mathematics programs. He also served as an author on the Everyday Mathematics second edition and as director of the UCSMP Everyday Mathematics Center, which supported Everyday Mathematics implementation nationally.
“It is not a coincidence that during Andy’s tenure with Everyday Mathematics, the program moved from being an important, niche curriculum to being the market leader nationally,” said Marty Gartzman, former Executive Director at CEMSE, who worked with Isaacs for 36 years. “And it is no coincidence that under Andy’s direction, Everyday Mathematics has remained the epitome of high-quality, standards-based mathematics programs for over two decades. Andy has a gift for helping teachers translate the big ideas of teaching mathematics into the classroom realities of daily practice,” he added.
In addition to his work with Everyday Mathematics development, Isaacs made important contributions to numerous other programs at UChicago STEM Education. These included developing and teaching courses since 2008 for the University's Urban Teacher Education Program. Most recently, he was heavily involved with UChicago STEM Education’s work with computer science education and financial education. In 2019, Isaacs assumed the role as UCSMP Director following the retirement of Zalman Usiskin.
Isaacs began his professional career as a fourth grade teacher in two Chicago-area school districts. In 1994, he earned a doctorate in mathematics, with significant work in computer science, from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). While at UIC, he was a major contributor to several mathematics education projects, including serving as a lead author of the Math Trailblazers K-5 mathematics curriculum of UIC’s Teaching Integrated Mathematics and Science (TIMS) Project.
For his outstanding contributions to mathematics education, in 2015 the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics awarded Issacs its prestigious Max Beberman Award. Writing in support of that nomination, former USCMP Director Zalman Usiskin wrote, “Max Beberman was known for his pioneering work and his involvement in the earliest and one of the largest mathematics curriculum projects of the new math era. Andy has helped to continue the strong tradition of innovative and influential work coming out of the state of Illinois.” Former NCTM President Diane Briars wrote, “Andy epitomizes the legacy of Max Beberman. He is an outstanding teacher, as Max was, but most importantly, he has improved the mathematics teaching of countless teachers and mathematics learning of millions of students, in Illinois and nationally, through his visionary curriculum development, first with Math Trailblazers, and for the past twenty plus years with Everyday Mathematics… He is the “Max Beberman” of our generation.”
Succeeding Isaacs as Director of UChicago STEM Education is Alison Whittington, who previously co-directed UChicago STEM Education’s School Support Services group. Sarah Burns and Debbie Leslie, both of whom are long standing Everyday Mathematics authors and grade-level leaders, are now co-Directors of Everyday Mathematics Revisions.