Deaths: Philip Wagreich

Philip Wagreich

Philip Wagreich, 71, a national leader in math education who developed an elementary school curriculum used around the world, died Jan. 1 of a heart attack.

Wagreich, professor emeritus of mathematics, statistics and computer science, was former director of the UIC Institute for Mathematics and Science Education.

An expert on algebraic geometry, he established his department’s Office of Mathematics and Computer Education, which became a major center for mathematician-led work in mathematics education.

“In addition to his mathematical prowess and his wonderful human qualities, we should remember Phil’s profound impact on this department and mathematics education,” said colleague John Baldwin, professor emeritus of mathematics, statistics and computer science.

“He spearheaded a mathematics education program which, in its depth of impact on the preparation and professional development of K-12 teachers, is virtually unmatched.”

Wagreich and Howard Goldberg, professor emeritus of physics, used National Science Foundation grants to create the Teaching Integrated Mathematics and Science Project.

The well-known Math Trailblazers K-5 curriculum, developed by TIMS in 1997, is one of UIC’s top royalty-generating patents.

“Unlike many mathematicians, Phil had a natural ability of being able to decipher how children come to understand mathematics and how to help them learn mathematical concepts and skills,” said Martin Gartzman, executive director of the University of Chicago Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education and a long-time collaborator.

“Phil became a role model for the substantive involvement of research mathematicians nationally in precollege mathematics education.”

Wagreich was a co-director of the Mathematicians and Education Reform Forum, a national clearinghouse that built a program of interconnected K-12, undergraduate and graduate-level educational activities for mathematicians.

He was a member of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ Principles and Standards for School Mathematics writing team that developed standards for curriculum, teaching and evaluation in grades K-12.

Wagreich received the Excellence in Integrated Mathematics and Science Award from the School Science and Mathematics Association and the Max Beberman Award for contributions to mathematics education from the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

A graduate of Brandeis University, he received his Ph.D. in mathematics from Columbia University. He was a lecturer at Brandeis and assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania before joining UIC as associate professor in 1973.

“He always had time for students who came to see him,” said Janice Nekola, assistant to the director at the Institute for Mathematics and Science Education, who worked with Wagreich for many years.

“He was a generous spirit.”

Wagreich is survived by his wife, Lorraine Owles, his children, Heidi, Ian, Amy and Alexander, and four grandchildren. A memorial is planned for later this year.

The family requests contributions to West Suburban PADS, Sarah’s Inn, the Greater Chicago Food Depository or the Children’s Clinic of Oak Park-River Forest Infant Welfare Society.