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Alvarez receives awards from Texas Council of Teachers of Mathematics, MAA for contributions to math education

James Alvarez
James Alvarez

A mathematics professor at The University of Texas at Arlington has received a pair of awards for his contributions to mathematics education at the state and national levels.

James Alvarez, associate professor and distinguished teaching professor of mathematics, received the 2017 E. Glenadine Gibb Achievement Award from the Texas Council of Teachers of Mathematics (TCTM) in July. He also received a Certificate of Meritorious Service Award from the Mathematical Association of America during the MAA's 2017 MathFest conference, held July 26-29 in Chicago.

TCTM is a professional organization that encourages an active interest in mathematics.

"I was very honored to receive the Texas Council of Teachers of Mathematics' (TCTM) E. Glenadine Gibb Achievement Award for my contributions to the improvement of mathematics education at the state and national level," Alvarez said. "This award is particularly meaningful for me because the TCTM leadership consists of many very deserving and prominent mathematics educators; I am honored and humbled that the TCTM Board has recognized my contributions among such a distinguished group."

Past recipients of the Gibb Achievement Award include former presidents of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Iris Carl (president 1990-92) and Cathy Seeley (president 2004-06). Gibb, a mathematics professor at UT Austin from 1965-84 and NCTM president in 1974, was a leading voice for mathematics education in Texas until her death in 1984.

In presenting Alvarez with the Meritorious Service award, the MAA noted that he most recently served on the MAA board of governors as representative of the Texas Section, and in February he also began a term as member-at-large for minority interests in the MAA Congress. The Texas Section of the MAA may nominate a member to receive the MAA Certificate of Meritorious Service Award once every five years. The award recognizes significant service to the MAA at the national and state levels.

"I was so pleased to receive an MAA Certificate of Meritorious Service Award at the 2017 MathFest in Chicago," Alvarez said. "The MAA is the leading international mathematics organization that focuses on collegiate mathematics and I am honored to be counted among those who work tirelessly to promote the important mission of the MAA.

"It was a pleasant surprise to have been nominated by the Texas Section because I know there are so many of us who serve the mathematics community both at the state and national levels. I'm sure that it was a coincidence, but my wife, Dr. Minerva Cordero [College of Science associate dean for academic affairs], received this award the last time it was given five years ago."

Alvarez also serves on the board of directors of the Conference for the Advancement of Mathematics Teaching, and on the MAA's Gung and Hu Award committee, and he served on the Advanced Placement Calculus Test development committee from 2007-10.

Alvarez has spent over two decades working on ways to improve curricula, strengthen problem solving for in-service mathematics teachers, and helping to train K-12 teachers. He has received numerous grants from the National Science Foundation and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to improve the quality of mathematics teacher preparation in Texas. He is currently working on a project funded by a $300,000 NSF grant in which he and fellow UTA mathematics faculty members Teresa Jorgensen and Kathryn Rhoads are refining and supplementing curriculum materials used in college mathematics courses designed for students who plan to become high school math teachers.

Jianzhong Su, professor and chair of the UTA Department of Mathematics, said the awards are affirmation of the significant local, statewide and national leadership role Alvarez has in training current mathematics teachers and students who will become teachers, as well as in improving the way mathematics courses are taught.

"I am thrilled to see Dr. Alvarez receive these prestigious awards because he is tireless in his efforts to improve mathematics education," Su said. "His dedication to his students at UTA and to mentoring current and future teachers is inspiring."

Alvarez earned his doctorate in mathematics from UT Austin in 1996 and came to UTA in 2001. He received the UTA Innovation in Teaching Award in 2009 and the UTA Provost's Research Excellence Award each year from 2005-10. He is a recipient of the UT System Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award in 2010 and the Mathematical Association of America Texas Section Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics in 2012. He was named to the UTA Academy of Distinguished Teachers in 2012 and received the UTA Outstanding Honors Faculty Award in 2016. In addition, he serves as graduate director of the UTA M.A. in Mathematics for Secondary Teachers program.