As EDC mourns the loss of Mark Driscoll, a beloved colleague who passed away on October 3, we are also celebrating his life and legacy. For over three decades, Mark led groundbreaking EDC work to promote equitable mathematics instruction, improve urban education, and support emerging leaders (read an article about Mark). In this post, five of his closest colleagues and friends share their remembrances of him.
From June Mark
Mark was a great teacher, leader, colleague, and friend. His work from the beginning focused on creating opportunities for students to express, understand, and love mathematics. His many books were especially influential in helping teachers make sense of and create space for students’ mathematical ideas. Through his writing, he impacted the practice of so many mathematics leaders and teachers, making mathematical ideas and algebraic thinking accessible and helping teachers to support the mathematical communication of all students. Above all else, he always had a warm and wonderful sense of humor which made him a delight to work with and be around. He will be very much missed by myself, his colleagues, and the larger mathematics and mathematics education communities.
From Johannah Nikula
Mark had an uncanny ability to find humor in almost every situation, while simultaneously not straying from a focus on what was important. One of the ways Mark kept this focus was by prioritizing understanding where each individual was coming from and what ideas were on their minds. With colleagues, educators, and partners, this focus supported collaboration and allowed each of us to know that our ideas were valued. Within mathematics education, this focus was evident in his love of discussing students’ work on a mathematics problem; he could always find the interesting nuggets of thinking in each student’s work. His attention to the importance of each child’s and teacher’s mathematical ideas allowed him to create valuable teaching resources to engage every child in mathematics learning. I will miss Mark so much as a colleague and a friend, but I take comfort from knowing that his legacy lives on—both through the many people who have learned from him and through the many resources he developed that will continue to help teachers and students.
From Al Cuoco
In the spirit of a Yogi Berra non sequitur, I knew Mark Driscoll before I knew him. We were both raised Catholic, we both went to Boston College, we both majored in mathematics, we both went to grad school in mathematics, we both worked with Paul Sally, we both loved teaching, and we both ended up at EDC—and that's where I finally met him in person. And these prior intersections led us to a wonderful collection of shared experiences—jokes about nuns and priests (we loved most of them), stories about people we both knew (some quite weird), tales of the culture of mathematics (many of which involved chalk and cigars), and remembrances of our interactions with all the wonderful kids and teachers we knew. As soon as I met Mark, I knew that I had always known him. And I'll know him forever.
From Paul Goldenberg
When our publisher was shipping me all over the country to work with teachers on Think Math—Houston, Austin, Ann Arbor, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Albuquerque—people everywhere would say “Oh, you’re from EDC. You must know Mark Driscoll!” They all admired him. I did, too. Mark was one of the kindest, warmest, most deeply thoughtful, and funniest people I’ve known. The world is a poorer place without him.
From Deborah Spencer
Mark hired me for my first job at EDC 32 years ago. I feel very fortunate that he did, as I found work that I loved and also a kindred spirit in Mark. One thing that I really loved about those early years was that even when I was a very junior staff member, Mark always made me feel welcome to think deeply about our projects and to be a significant part of the collective enterprise, even as I was really just learning how to do the work. Mark’s impressive knowledge and accomplishments might have reasonably entitled him to be a prima donna, but nothing could have been farther from the truth. He was genuinely collaborative and a role model for how educators in pursuit of a common goal could act—with deep respect, with humility, and with love and appreciation for one another. Mark was, fundamentally, a learner: curious about how others saw the world, interested in expanding his own thinking, and sure there was something of value to learn from each other. He deeply influenced my work, and I will miss him dearly.
If you have a memory of Mark Driscoll that you’d like to share, please do so in the Comments section.
June Mark, managing project director, leads innovative educational research and development (R&D) that supports teachers in removing obstacles to STEM learning for students from groups that are underrepresented in the STEM workforce.
Johannah Nikula, senior project director, leads a body of research that advances knowledge of how to make engaging, rigorous mathematics accessible to all learners. She co-led projects with Mark Driscoll that focused on improving mathematics instruction for multilingual learners.
Al Cuoco, distinguished scholar, seeks to excite students and teachers by plunging them into exploring and applying mathematical habits of mind. A former teacher and innovative instructional designer, he is a staunch advocate of helping teachers make high-quality mathematics accessible to all youth.
Paul Goldenberg, distinguished scholar/advisor, designs innovative, evidence-based mathematics and computer science instructional resources. For over 40 years, he has developed curricula that take advantage of and build upon learners’ natural curiosity.
Deborah Spencer, managing project director, has over 30 years of experience leading mathematics education initiatives that support the use of high-quality curricula and equitable instructional practices, with a focus on underserved students.