Making math matter
By Hollie Knapp-Fisher, Communications Intern
As an associate professor and director of the Queen’s Outreach Centre, Lynda Colgan is a woman who wears many hats. Not only does she work with Queen’s undergraduate and graduate students, but she also pursues her passion for teaching children and families about math.
It was this pursuit that ultimately earned Dr. Colgan the Partners in Research National Mathematics Ambassador Award. This honour recognizes the outstanding contribution for Canadians in the field of mathematics.
“I don’t take awards like these lightly, and I attribute the recognition to the many unique opportunities that have enabled me to do what I love in many diverse contexts with varied audiences,” says Dr. Colgan.
Dr. Colgan started her journey as a public school teacher and has taught at every level of the education system. She played a major role in developing the Ontario elementary math curriculum and has contributed as a textbook author for students and teachers as well as a developer of provincial assessments. During many interactions with parents, students and teachers during the implementation of these projects, she became inspired to make a difference after seeing the impact negative attitudes about the subject could have on students.
Dr. Colgan began to write a bi-weekly column for the Kingston Whig-Standard about how math can be used in our daily lives. It was these columns that led to her hugely successful television series The Prime Radicals, which airs in Canada, the Middle East and Singapore and has won several awards for educational programming.
“The Prime Radicals aims to inspire students in Grade 2 and 3 to look at math in the world around them,” says Dr. Colgan. “This series has given me access to a huge virtual classroom, and the privilege of contributing to public education on a scale that most mathematics educators can only dream about.”
With this success Dr. Colgan also published a children’s book entitled Mathemagic! This book teaches children to perform magic tricks using math and has been nominated for children’s non-fiction book of the year by Library Associations in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.
Recently, Dr. Colgan has given her full attention to the fourth annual Science Rendezvous Kingston. With a focus on elementary school students, the event allows children and their families to interact with skilled instructors during a free, day-long celebration of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects. Science Rendezvous takes place May 3 at the Rogers K-Rock Centre.
Despite her busy schedule, Dr. Colgan still manages to find some time for herself at her retreat in Nova Scotia. With no phone or internet, this little piece of paradise is where she can go to be with her dog, cat and a few good books to relax and get ready for another year of math advocacy.