Société mathématique du Canada
Société mathématique du Canada
  location:  À propos de la SMCcommuniqués
À propos de la SMC        
February 24, 2004

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Graham Wright
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OTTAWA, Ontario - The winner of the Canadian Mathematical Society's first Excellence in Teaching Award is Dr. Leo Jonker from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Queen's University. The award will be presented at the Society's 2004 Summer Meeting in Halifax (June 13-15).

Thomson Nelson, a leading Canadian publisher, and Thomson Brooks/Cole, a Thomson Higher Education brand and premier provider of educational materials for mathematics and science - both part of The Thomson Corporation - have partnered with the CMS to create the Excellence in Teaching Award for post-secondary undergraduate teaching in mathematics. The award recognizes sustained and distinguished contributions in teaching at the post-secondary undergraduate level at a Canadian institution.

"Excellence in research and development starts with excellence in education. The CMS Excellence in Teaching Award focuses on the recipient's merit as a teacher and his or her impact on generations of students, scientists and future teachers," said Christiane Rousseau, CMS President.

"It is an honor for us to partner with the Canadian Mathematical Society in sponsoring this prestigious award," said George Bergquist, president of Thomson Nelson. "The award is an excellent vehicle for recognizing the critical role teachers play in bringing to life the learning resources publishers create, using them to meaningfully touch the lives of their students."

Leo Jonker's performance in teaching is exceptional and his teaching of engineers and of elementary school teachers is particularly remarkable. One of his great successes is the Introductory Engineering calculus course. Using a combination of strategies (well-trained tutors, carefully planned tutorials, superb lectures, and interactive course notes specially developed for the course), Jonker succeeded in raising the students' enthusiasm for mathematics. Particularly successful was his switch to undergraduate students as tutors in this large course. For this work, Leo Jonker has been awarded the Applied Science First Year Teaching and learning Award four times since 1998.

A second great success is Leo Jonker's work with elementary school students and prospective elementary school teachers. More than 20 years ago he started working with students in a local area elementary school. Over the years he has built up a series of enrichment tasks which have since appeared in two volumes. These books, aimed at grade 7 and 8 students, are intended to open the students' eyes to the beauty and power of mathematical ideas. More recently, Leo Jonker decided to combine his enrichment work with his concern for mathematics anxiety among elementary school teachers to establish a new course, Fundamental Concepts in Elementary Mathematics for Teachers. The audience of this course, consisting almost entirely of students with little or no university mathematics, very quickly grew to over 50 students. At the same time, his contacts in the elementary schools enabled him to find placements in which these students conduct enrichment classes, in pairs. Former students all say that the course has transformed their vision of mathematics. "He essentially changed us from a bunch of non-math minded students who lacked confidence in our abilities to teach it effectively, to a group of people who were excited and eager to go into our schools every week and teach math to our students" said Ryanne Flattery, one of his enthusiastic students.

Leo Jonker summarizes his teaching objectives as follows: "Love of the subject, love of its beauty and its power, should be the primary motivation for all mathematics education and the basis of all communication between teacher and student. The beauty of the subject can be equally evident at all levels of the education system." One of his first year engineers wrote of his classroom experience: "It is like painting an entire picture for us rather than just drawing one object in the middle of the canvas. It helps us understand the concepts behind the method we are using and the very nature of the problem itself. I walk out of his lectures thinking to myself - Wow! I understand this!"

Leo Jonker completed his undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of Toronto, where he obtained his Ph.D. in 1967. Following a postdoctoral position at the University of California, he has been at Queen's University since 1969. He was Head of the Department from 1990 to 1995. His field of research is dynamical systems and he has combined an active research career, including the supervision of several graduate students, with his commitment to education. He is regularly invited to give talks on pedagogy. Leo Jonker has received a number of Teaching Awards at Queen's University, including the 1997 W.J. Barnes Teaching Excellence Award, the 1999 Alumni Teaching Award, and the Engineering Society's Golden Apple in 2000. In 2000, he was a recipient of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations' Award for Excellence in Teaching.

About the Canadian Mathematical Society

Founded in 1945, the Canadian Mathematical Society is the main national organization whose goal is to promote and advance the discovery, learning, and application of mathematics. The Society's activities cover the whole spectrum of mathematics: scientific meetings and publishing of research material, education at all levels, popularization of mathematics. The education activities include competitions, mathematics camps in all provinces, posters for students, meetings, etc. The CMS organizes national Fora in mathematical education. For more details: (

About Thomson Corporation, Thomson Nelson and Thomson Brooks/Cole

The Thomson Corporation (, with 2003 revenues of $7.6 billion, is a global leader in providing integrated information solutions to business and professional customers. Thomson provides value-added information, software tools and applications to more than 20 million users in the fields of law, tax, accounting, financial services, higher education, reference information, corporate training and assessment, scientific research and healthcare. With operational headquarters in Stamford, Conn., Thomson has approximately 43,000 employees and provides services in approximately 130 countries. The Corporation's common shares are listed on the New York and Toronto stock exchanges (NYSE: TOC; TSX: TOC). Its learning businesses and brands serve the needs of individuals, learning institutions, corporations and government agencies with products and services for both traditional and distributed learning. Thomson Nelson ( is a leading provider of books and online resources for the educational market in Canada, maintaining over 30 interactive Web sites and publishing a wide range of core and supplemental electronic products. Thomson Brooks/Cole ( is a leading provider of higher education textbooks, software, and Internet materials for mathematics, science, and statistics.

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