Hall of Fame Portrait: Marilyn Burns Part 2

On December 2, 2010, AEP will induct Marilyn Burns, Math Solutions; Diane Trister Dodge, Teaching Strategies, Inc.; and Rachelle Cracchiolo, Teacher Created Materials into the Educational Publishing Hall of Fame. Here in her second installment, Marilyn Burns, Founder,  Math Solutions, discusses the greatest challenge she faced and the next big challenge for the educational publishing industry.

What was the greatest challenge you faced in your career, and how did you handle it?

The greatest challenge I faced in my career was making the shift from being a teacher to being a writer and publisher. It was huge. I had to shift my focus from serving my students to helping other teachers serve their students. To find my way, I drew on what I know about learning, that we build new understandings on the foundations of what we’ve already learned, and that we use our strengths to deal with our weaknesses. I also drew on what has always guided my teaching, which was to engage students in their learning, and then to learn from the students.

As a publisher, I strived to publish strategies that teachers could use for teaching math more effectively, paying attention to the realities of classroom teaching and modeling for teachers how to learn from students. I’ve done this in three ways. First, lessons are classroom tested to be sure they indeed are lessons that work. Second, lessons are described through classroom vignettes to bring them to life for teachers, reporting on what actually occurred with students when the lessons were taught. Finally, based on the idea that writing is a way to work your way into a subject and make it your own, actual samples of students’ written work provide evidence of the effect of the lessons.

What do you think is the greatest challenge that educational publishing will face in the next five years?  Any thoughts on how to approach it?

Ah, the wish for a crystal ball! I don’t have one. That said, I think it’s important always to keep an eye on making sure that all publishing efforts point toward making the world better for students and teachers.  To me, that translates into publishing professional books that help teachers engage students in making sense of mathematics, helping teachers learn to uncover topics rather than cover them, and inspiring teachers to serve all students.


Marilyn Burns is an educator, an author, and the founder of Math Solutions. Dedicated to improving students’ learning of mathematics and guided by the belief that teachers are the key to students’ success, Math Solutions has been providing K-8 mathematics professional development for more than 25 years. Math Solutions courses have been attended by thousands of teachers and administrators nationwide. Math Solutions publications include more than 80 professional development books and DVDs.

Read more about Marilyn Burns and the Hall of Fame.

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