Michael Gage and Arnold Pizer win AMS Impact Award

February 5, 2016

WeBWorK screen

Professors Michael Gage and Arnold Pizer have received the 2016 AMS Award for Impact on the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics. Gage and Pizer are honored for the creation and development of WeBWorK, one of the first web-based systems that assign and grades homework problems in mathematics and science courses.

“Gage and Pizer have made an invaluable contribution to the teaching and learning of mathematics through the creation of an open-source online homework system which can provide immediate feedback to students,” said Jennifer Taback of Bowdoin College, who served as chair of the award selection committee. “WeBWorK is a tremendous resource now used in mathematics classes across the country. This is an outstanding example of mathematicians serving the needs of mathematics students. We are thrilled to recognize their efforts through this AMS award.”

WeBWork is the most successful online homework system that is non-profit, free, open source, and textbook/publisher independent. Almost 1000 institutions (including high schools, colleges, and large research universities) use WeBWorK. Its Open Problem Library contains more than 30,000 problems covering courses in college algebra through linear algebra, complex analysis, probability, and statistics.

Gage and Pizer began developing WeBWorK in the mid-1990s and launched it with a class of 29 students at Rochester in the fall of 1996. They received a grant from the National Science Foundation to support development of WeBWorK in 1999. That same year, WeBWorK received the International Conference on Technology in Collegiate Mathematics Award for Excellence and Innovation with the Use of Technology in Collegiate Mathematics. Since then, WeBWorK has received three additional NSF grants, and it is currently supported by the Mathematical Association of America.

James Glimm, former President of the AMS, has written about the improvement in student learning that WeBWork brings: “The key mechanism for this improvement seems to be that the students find their homework to be far more rewarding and do more of it, and, not surprisingly do learn more.” Instructors praise the flexibility of WeBWork, noting that it allows many different types of questions to be posed and that its open source software makes it possible for individuals to add onto its capabilities.

The announcement of this award appears in the May 2016 issue of the Notices of the AMS.

To find out more about the award, including past recipients and nomination guidelines, see http://www.ams.org/impact.

To learn more about WeBWorK, see http://webwork.maa.org.