Jere Confrey, the Joseph D. Moore Distinguished University Professor of Mathematics Education, has been named a 2017 AERA Fellow — the American Educational Research Association’s highest honor that recognizes research contributions to education. She is the first faculty member at NC State to receive the honor.
“This is a recognition not just for me but for all my teams of researchers, programmers, graduate students, and partners in schools, especially the students themselves,” said Confrey, who joined the NC State faculty in 2007. “We have all worked really hard, long days to build software and materials, study the classrooms and to make learning math more compelling and more closely related to students thinking and experience.”
Mary Ann Danowitz, dean of the College of Education, said: “We are delighted that the American Educational Research Association has named Professor Confrey a fellow. This distinction further reaffirms the significant and long-term impact that our faculty members’ research and professional development in teaching and learning has globally. The AERA Fellow is the highest honor an educator in the U.S. can receive.”
Confrey always wanted to teach; she still has an essay she wrote in ninth grade about her ambition to be a math teacher. She had been teaching high school math for several years in Oregon when she decided she wanted to teach teachers. She headed to Cornell University for her master’s and doctoral degrees, and later served on the faculties at several universities before arriving at NC State.
Jean Piaget, the Swedish clinical psychologist known for his theory of cognitive development, inspired her research interests. Confrey wanted to understand more about how children see the world and construct their knowledge.
Her current research focus includes designing learning maps and diagnostic assessments focused on student thinking in mathematics for middle schools. The goal is to help teachers make math compelling and understandable to their students by leveraging data from the assessments in real time to promote rich discussions.
Through this work and research, Confrey has hoped “to show that students are the most underutilized resources in schools.”
“Rich and inventive ideas from children captured my heart, and I have just kept at it,” added Confrey, who holds several grants from the National Science Foundation and won NC State’s Innovator of the Year Award in 2013 “As new technologies emerged, I have used them as the media for this work.”
Confrey has also focused on expanding access to research on student learning, particularly to educators who work in to rural and underserved areas. In early February she traveled to Guatemala to work at a Mayan school for girls to share knowledge and resources with their teachers and support their efforts to incorporate STEM education.
Being named an AERA Fellow, Confrey said, “is a validation that studying and documenting the richness of children’s ideas and making them the center of instruction is a worthwhile enterprise. It can transform education.”
The AERA Council started the AERA Fellows program in 2007 to honor education researchers for their exceptional contributions to education research. AERA Fellows are nominated and endorsed by AERA members and ultimately selected by the AERA Council.