Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Alexander Karp, Mathematics EducationBy mst • Jan 30th, 2013 • Category: Lead Story, Mathematics Education
Dr. Alexander Karp is a full professor in the Mathematics Education program, in the Mathematics, Science, and Technology Department. Although traveling a lot, throughout his life he has lived for a long time in two places only: in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he was born and raised, and in New York.
As a child he was interested in history, mathematics, and art. In the eighth grade he received an award at the City Mathematical Olympiad and, as was customary in Russia, was invited to attend the mathematical “circle” (club). He was identified as exceptional in mathematics as a child, and as a result he was invited to compete in Mathematical Olympiad and mathematical clubs at school. Since that time he has been involved in more advanced studies of mathematics. Due to the anti-Semitic Soviet policy, Dr. Karp could not, however, become a student of the Mathematics Department of St. Petersburg University (which officially aimed to prepare research mathematicians) and entered the Mathematics Department of the Herzen Pedagogical University responsible for the preparation of mathematics educators. However, it proved to be a great choice. First, because the Herzen Pedagogical University was at that time a very good research and educational center, and, secondly, because it was there that Dr. Karp became interested in mathematics education.
Dr. Karp started conducting his research in mathematics and mathematics education while still a student of Herzen University and continued doing so as a secondary school teacher. He spent 18 years as a classroom teacher, teaching advanced mathematics (many of his former students became professors of mathematics in the USA and other countries). While working in this school he returned to Herzen University to receive yet another degree in history and education and a Ph.D. in mathematics education.
He became involved in professional development of mathematics educators as well as textbook writing. For ten years he served as a chair of the St. Petersburg Examination Board in Mathematics and as a Lecturer in the St. Petersburg Academy of Postgraduate studies.
In 1996 he met Professor Vogeli in Russia and that started their collaboration. After visiting TC several times, Dr. Karp applied for a position in the Mathematics Education program and has been a professor at TC ever since. Dr. Karp teaches courses in pure mathematics, in mathematics education methods, and research courses; his favorite courses are MSTM 5023 Problem Solving and MSTM 4034 Exploring Secondary School Mathematics. As he says:
“It’s very important to show to prospective teachers that you can do interesting stuff with school mathematics, that school mathematics is a very rich field where you can ask very interesting and challenging questions and do a lot of real mathematical work.”
He also enjoys teaching his research seminar and engaging prospective researchers in the discussion of the paradigms and methods of studies in mathematics education.
His own areas of research include the history of mathematics education, problem solving, and gifted education and mathematics teacher education. He is co-editor (with Gert Schubring) of the International Journal for the History of Mathematics Education. Among his major recent accomplishments is the two-volume set on Russian Mathematics Education, co-edited with Dr. Vogeli. Currently he is involved in an even more ambitious project. He is co-editing (with Gert Schubring) the Handbook on the History of Mathematics Education. This book aims to provide a state-of the-art description of the history of teaching and learning mathematics all over the world, as well as a discussion of the research methodology of the field.
Dr. Karp says that the most stimulating part of his research work is looking for new sources and information in the education and art archives. He also enjoys playing with his son and attending museums with his family.
By Deiana Jackson, Graduate Student, Mathematics Education Ed.D.