Remembering Jerry P. Becker


Jerry Becker

Jerry was born March 1, 1937, in North Redwood, Minnesota, one of four children of Elmer and Florence (Draeger) Becker. He graduated from Redwood Falls High School in Redwood Falls, Minnesota. He went on to earn his undergraduate degree in mathematics at the University of Minnesota, his master's degree in the same field at the University of Notre Dame, and his Ph.D. in mathematics education at Stanford University.

During his early career in education, Jerry taught mathematics at the middle school and high school levels before starting his long career in academia. He held faculty positions at Rutgers University and Northern Illinois University before joining the faculty at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale in 1979. Jerry served on the faculty for more than 40 years, leading doctoral and master’s degree students and countless undergraduate students in addition to international scholars and math teachers from across the state. He remained an active member of the faculty until the time of his death. His legacy and passion for teaching live on through the students and teachers whose lives he touched. His impact on mathematics education is, ironically, incalculable.

Jerry served on the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics board of directors and as the council’s representative for International Mathematics Education and served on the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics board of directors, including a term as chair. He also served as president and as a board member of the School Science and Mathematics Association, served two terms on the U.S. National Commission on Mathematical Instruction at the National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences, and was active in organizing the annual conference, held locally, on teaching mathematics for the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics - Southern Section and National Conferences of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

For more than 20 years Jerry also taught a 4-week summer institute at the University of Chicago with a focus on continuing education for Chicago area public school teachers. The institutes were well attended, reaching more than 75 teachers each year.

In the global arena, Jerry organized two U.S.-Japan seminars on Mathematical Problem Solving and Computers and one with Japan and China featuring leading educators from all three countries. The results of these seminars have been repeatedly referenced by experts following the publication of proceedings in the 1980s. Jerry was the world’s lone mathematics educator to have attended each of the 13 International Congresses on Mathematics Education, held quadrennially since 1952. Jerry presented lectures in Germany, Korea, Singapore, China, and Japan and authored a litany of articles published in internationally refereed journals. He also authored books and chapters of books, most recently just completing a collaborative effort with Australian scholars, titled “A History of Mathematics Education.” Until his passing, Jerry also shared updates and new findings relative to mathematics education with colleagues, educators, and students globally via more than a dozen email distribution lists.

In 2021, Jerry received the Distinguished Life Achievement in Mathematics Award from the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics and was the recipient of a Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota. Within the last two years, two endowed fellowships were created in his honor, one at Rutgers University with an initial contribution by a former student, and another at the University of Minnesota, with an initial contribution by an anonymous benefactor. Jerry was delighted to meet the inaugural fellowship recipients earlier this spring.

Beyond his passion for teaching, Jerry also enjoyed attending Saluki football and basketball games and following the St. Louis Cardinals, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and Stanford University Cardinal. He especially loved his Golden Gophers of the University of Minnesota. Jerry will be remembered not only for his passion for mathematics education but for his integrity, genuine kindness, quiet thoughtfulness, smile, and sense of humor.

To honor Jerry's legacy and passion for providing quality professional development opportunities for K-12 teachers serving in high needs areas, ICTM has created the Jerry P. Becker Equitable Access Scholarship Fund.  Click Here to learn more about the scholarship and about donation opportunities.