Shirley Frye has been an influential leader in mathematics education since her role as board member of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) in 1973. She taught for 40 years, and she also served on several task forces and committees, including NCTM's Arithmetic Teacher
editorial panel and the Mathematics Education Trust (MET).
Possibly the most notable of Frye's contributions to mathematics education was her role as president of NCTM (1988-90). During her presidency, NCTM released Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics
, which gave much prominence to the Council. Frye spread the word about the Standards, carefully articulating the goals and content to a wide variety of audiences.
As a member of the Mathematical Sciences Education Board of the National Research Council, she helped to develop the guide, Reshaping School Mathematics.
She also co-authored a K-8 mathematics series and a teacher resource book.
Frye has served as president of the Arizona Association of Teachers of Mathematics and the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM), and she was Arizona coordinator for the American Mathematics Competitions. She has been on the advisory board for the Women and Mathematics Education (WME) and was a board member of TODOS: Mathematics for ALL. In retirement, Frye volunteers as a teacher in local schools.
She won the 2002 Lifetime Achievement Award of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Thiel College named Frye as their distinguished alumnus of the year in 1976. The National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics gave Frye their Glenn Gilbert National Leadership Award in 1986. Frye was the inaugural recipient of the Louise Hay Award of the Association for Women in Mathematics, in 1991.