Gail F. Burrill

  • 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient

    Gail F. Burrill

    East Lansing, Michigan

    More than probability played a role in getting Gail Burrill where she is today. Burrill is an indefatigable advocate for more statistics in the classroom. This drive for statistics-and for mathematics in general-has carried her to numerous roles in her career, from high school math teacher to president of NCTM (1996-98) and director of the Mathematical Sciences Education Board at the National Research Council (1999-2001). Since 2001, she has been at Michigan State University as an academic specialist in the Program in Mathematics Education. 

    Burrill is a tireless champion for math teachers and students at all levels. She has written dozens of books and articles, leads workshops, gives talks, and delivers professional development in numerous programs. She secures travel grants through the National Science Foundation for math teachers to attend overseas meetings of the International Congress on Mathematical Education (ICME) to gather ideas for their classrooms. She also directs the Secondary School Teachers Program at the Park City Mathematics Institute of the Institute for Advanced Study.

    She works with mathematics educators in countries varying from Peru to Ireland and statistics educators from around the world. Currently, she is representing the United States on the International Program Committee for ICME-12. 

    Many nominators pointed to Burrill's lengthy career in the classroom as critical to her many successes outside of it. As one nominator said, "Gail is the embodiment of the best, and I mean the best, 'teacher-leader' with whom I have ever had the privilege to be associated." The 30 years that Burrill spent instructing students gave her the practical experience to promote math and help other teachers improve their craft. In the words of another nominator, "I continue to marvel at what seems to be an unlimited source of energy fueling her efforts to improve mathematics education for all…. She has the courage of deep convictions, the wisdom of years of classroom teaching experience, and the unquestioned integrity and leadership to move others to action."

    Burrill's inquisitiveness extends to a passion for technology. In her role as a senior mathematics advisor for Texas Instruments, she has worked with others on how best to use technology in the classroom, using the first versions of graphing technology in her high school classes. She was also one of the forces behind Figure This! and has supported its enduring online presence on the NCTM website. 

    Honors showered on Burrill over the years include the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics (1985), Wisconsin's Distinguished Mathematics Educator Award (1986), and an honorary doctorate from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (2000). In addition, the American Statistical Association elected Burrill in 1994 as a Fellow, an honor that, according to one nominator, is "rarely achieved by a statistics educator even at the college level."