Humanities faculty member Andrew Fiss has been awarded Best Book in Technical or Scientific Communication by the Conference on College Composition and Communication for his 2020 book Performing Math: A History of Communication and Anxiety in the American Mathematics Classroom.
Performing Math discusses the history of mathematics education in nineteenth-century American colleges, the anxiety that surrounded (and still surrounds) the subject, and the often performative nature of mathematics teaching and learning. In a review for the book Amir Alexander, author of Proof! How the World Became Geometrical, said “Through an impressive array of evidence and historical accounts, Performing Math convincingly shows that mathematics education has often had a significant theatrical component. Without a doubt this book illuminates mathematics and its place in American culture in new and surprising ways.”
In a press release for the award, the CCCC selection committee noted “Compelling, well-researched, and a very interesting read. Though Fiss’s book focuses on the historical instruction of math, his ideas about classroom performance can be translated to other fields.” And, “While it is historical, it covers a technical topic and anxiety in a way that provides some insight into the resistance seen with technology projects and tools. The takeaways from the book … can be applied broadly to pedagogy, workplace, and any other situation where anxiety exists.”
In light of the award, Fiss reflected on Performing Math, “…its first printing was in November 2020, so it wasn’t possible to acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic or the changes in education as a result. Specifically, though I talk about written testing in math, I feel like the book does privilege oral, face-to-face communication (including in student songs and plays about math). What those historical stories mean for education has changed since 2020, as the general expectations of post-2020 education are still developing.”
Andy also expressed pride in being able to bring the award back to the Humanities department, and gratitude for the inspiration received from prior Humanities award recipients. Works like Bob Johnson‘s Romancing the Atom (which also won the TSC Best Book) and the multiple awards both won and inspired by the work of Beth Flynn all had an impact on Fiss. “It was so inspirational! I hope this news similarly helps other people along in their work.”
The award will be presented at the CCCC Annual Convention in Chicago on Friday, February 17. “The Conference on College Composition and Communication, with more than 4,000 members and subscribers, supports and promotes the teaching and study of composition, rhetoric, and communication skills at the college level, both in undergraduate and graduate programs.”