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MET Legacy Series: Edward J. Brennan

By Carol A. Edwards

NCTM’s Mathematics Education Trust (MET) relies on contributions from Council members and other individuals, Affiliates, and corporations. Gifts to the Edward J. Brennan fund help support Prospective Middle School Teacher Course Work Scholarships. A scholarship of up to $3,000 is awarded to a full-time college or university junior who is pursuing a career goal of becoming a certified teacher of middle (grades 6–8) school mathematics.

Edward J. Brennan: Committed to Improving Mathematics Education

Edward BrennanEdward Brennan is a history professor turned “math guru” who has made many contributions to mathematics education for more than 40 years. He was born in 1941 into a farming family in Bridgehampton, New York, located on the east end of Long Island. His commitment to improving the teaching of mathematics had its beginnings while he was in ninth grade. After much success in the basic foundations of arithmetic, he was placed in a first-year algebra course taught by the shop teacher, who was minimally qualified to teach mathematics. Meanwhile, his interest in history grew.

Brennan received his Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in history and his master’s degree in early (1500–1815) modern European history from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. After graduate school he discovered his passion for teaching mathematics during the two years he taught grades five and six in Riverhead, Long Island. This was during the heart of the “new math” era of the 1960s, and he took some “new modern math” classes, which he thought were excellent. He believed that the idea of teaching mathematics for concept understanding was a vast improvement over what it had been before: memorizing rules, processes, and the “only” one approach to solve a problem. He then taught mathematics in junior high school for three years and found the experience most rewarding.

Brennan’s next teaching experience was with the Department of Defense Education Agency (DODEA) on Midway Island. He taught three mathematics courses and three social studies courses at the high school level. After a year, he transferred to Bamberg, Germany, and taught middle school mathematics. Brennan will never forget his “dumb dumb” mathematics class—his students called it this in the early days of the course. This class became his favorite group of students, who began the year knowing only failure and ended the year with boundless enthusiasm for the subject.

After Brennan’s time in Bamberg, he became principal of an elementary school at Schwaebisch Gmuend, located east of Stuttgart, Germany. During his six-year tenure at this school, he taught mathematics and history classes and received a doctorate in school administration with a minor in curriculum studies from the University of Southern California.

In 1978, Brennan moved to West Ruislip, England, where he worked for the next 24 years. He served as a principal and a math and social studies administrator and taught grades 4–6 for 17 years. While serving as the math and social studies administrator, he trained more than 500 teachers during a seven-year period.

Brennan retired from the DODEA in 2002 after 32 years of service. He currently lives with his wife, Anne, in the village of Ickenham. He continues to tutor English and American students in mathematics and teaches part time for the University of Maryland, which provides courses for the U.S. Military. He finds the work gratifying, particularly, as he says, when he is working with individual students and military personnel who are ready and willing students. Many of the military students begin with sad math stories and fear, which he helps change to enthusiasm and confidence. He continues his commitment to improving mathematics education with his generous contributions to the Mathematics Education Trust to provide scholarships for prospective middle school mathematics teachers.
 

SchaeferRecent Scholarship Recipient

Elizabeth Schaefer is the most recent recipient of the Prospective Middle School Mathematics Teacher Course Work Scholarship. Schaefer, a student at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, said, “This will help me to actualize my dream of helping every student I have understand math. The scholarship allows me to spend more time volunteering and working in a classroom this year.” Read more about Edward J. Brennan, whose gift to the Mathematics Education Trust (MET) funds this scholarship.

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