Biography - David Dennis

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Educational Background:

Ph.D.  (1995).  Mathematics Education. 
            Advisor: Prof. Jere Confrey.
            Cornell University, Ithaca NY. 
            Thesis Title:  Historical Perspectives for the Reform of Mathematics Curriculum: Geometric Curve Drawing Devices and their Role in the Transition to an Algebraic Description of Functions. 

M.S.  (1993).  Mathematics Education,
            with secondary certification (6-12) in New York State.  
            Cornell University, Ithaca NY.

M.S.  (1977).   Mathematics, specializing in logic and recursion theory.
            Advisor: Prof. Anil Nerode
            Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

B.A.  (1974).  Mathematics, with highest honors.
            Minors in Philosophy and History of Art.
            University of Delaware,  Newark, DE. 
            Nominated to Phi Beta Kappa

Professional Experience:

2009 – Present: Creation of  Mathematical Intentions, which contains 49 half-hour podcasts by me on the ethnomathematical history of every major secondary topic from Algebra to Calculus. The site also contains many supporting PDF’s and interactive applets. Go to:

2003 – 2008  Band Leader, and Saxophonist.  I booked jobs and wrote musical arrangements for a professional jazz band in southern California, often featuring vocalist and African-American historian Karen Wilson.  I commercially released a CD of my own original music in 2008, Let it Go, featuring poetry by e. e. cummings, available at:

1995 – 2002  Assistant Professor & Teacher Educator, Dept. of Mathematical Sciences, University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). I was an active full–time participant in the Partnership for Excellence in Teacher Education (PETE), funded by the National Science Foundation. I ran an M.A.T. program for math teachers, created math & technology courses for all future teachers, and conducted many teacher workshops at all levels in the El Paso public schools, all of which serve areas that are overwhelmingly low-income and Hispanic.

1991 – 1995, Research Assistant, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Mathematics Education Research Group, Project Director:  Dr. Jere Confrey, Dept. of Education.  I worked as part of her research team funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation entitled:  Splitting, Similarity and Rate of Change:  New Approaches to Multiplication and Exponential Functions. I also helped to write Dr. Confrey's  successful  N.S.F. grant proposal entitled:  Algebra By Design.  (Approved May 1995).  I was primarily concerned with the use of mathematical history for curricular reform of undergraduate, secondary, and primary mathematics.  My responsibilities also included co-teaching (with Dr. Confrey) some of her graduate courses in Mathematics Education, e.g. "What is Algebra?" and “Gender Issues in Mathematics Education.”

1992, Mathematics Teacher, Ithaca High School, Ithaca NY.  I taught 9th grade algebra & geometry (with special pilot lab sections), and 12th grade advanced placement calculus (B-C).  This teaching was part of my graduate program to obtain N.Y.S. secondary certification.

1988 – 1989, Instructor of Mathematics, Wells College, Aurora, NY. I taught Abstract Algebra, Statistics, and Precalculus to small classes of women at this unique women's college.

1983 – 1989, Instructor of Mathematics, Ithaca College, Ithaca NY.    I taught many classes at many levels including:  Seminars for Mathematics Majors, History of Mathematics, Philosophy of Mathematics, Calculus, Statistics, Precalculus, Fundamentals of Mathematics, What is Mathematics?, and a freshman writing seminar in mathematics.

1980 – 1983, Instructor of Mathematics, Queens College (City University of New York), N.Y.C..  I taught Calculus, Precalculus, Algebra and Trigonometry.  Students in my classes were admitted under the open enrollments program from the highly diverse population of inner city New York, mostly from low-income families.

1980, Casualty Insurance Actuary at Insurance Service Offices, an organization that provides statistical information about risk on Wall Street in NYC.

Over the years I have also been briefly employed in a variety of private settings including:  mathematical consulting (statistical & actuarial), architectural design and construction, stone masonry, painting, graphic design, advertising, theater and music.

Mosaic by David Dennis


Most of these are also available online at:

Published Book Chapters:

Dennis, D.  (2000).  The Role of Historical Studies in Mathematics and Science Educational Research.  In Dick Lesh & Anthony Kelly (Eds.)  Handbook for Research Design in Mathematics and Science Education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.  (This book is a standard introductory graduate textbook in the field.  The varied authors represent many NSF-sponsored educational projects.)

Dennis, D.  &  Confrey, J.  (1998).  Geometric Curve Drawing Devices as an Alternative Approach to Analytic Geometry:  An Analysis of the Methods, Voice, and Epistemology of a High School Senior.  In R. Lehrer and D. Chazan (Eds.)Designing Learning Environments for Developing Understanding of Geometry and Space.  pp. 297-318.  Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Dennis, D.  &  Confrey, J.  (1997).  Drawing Logarithmic and Exponential Curves with the Computer Software Geometer's Sketchpad: A Method Inspired by Historical Sources.  In J. King & D. Schattschneider (Eds.), Geometry Turned On: Dynamic Software in Learning, Teaching and Research.  pp. 147-156.  Washington D.C.: Mathematical Association of America.  (My computer animation of a machine from Descartes Geometry was the cover photo for the book).
Published Articles:

Dennis, D.  Project-Based Mathematical Investigation For Prospective K-8 Teachers: Students Produce Original Approaches to the Generation of Pythagorean Triples.  (in progress, preprint available from author).

Dennis, D.  &  Confrey, J.  (2000).  La creación de exponentes: un estudio sobre los méthodos y la epistemología John Wallis.   Revista Latinoamericana de Investigación en Mathemática Educativa, Vol. 3, p 5-31. Mexico City: International Thomson Editores.  (Spanish Translation of Dennis & Confrey, 1996)

Dennis, D. & Kreinovich, V. & Rump, S.  (1998).  Intervals and the Origins of Calculus.  Reliable Computing   4: 191-197.   Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer.

Dennis, D.  (1997).   René Descartes' curve-drawing devices:  Experiments in the relations between mechanical motion and symbolic language. Mathematics Magazine, Vol. 70, No. 3, June 1997, pp. 163-174.  Washington D. C.: Mathematical Association of America.

Dennis, D.  &  Confrey, J.  (1996).  The Creation of Continuous Exponents: A Study of the Methods and Epistemology of Alhazen, and Wallis.  In J. Kaput & E. Dubinsky (Eds.), Research in Collegiate Mathematics II.   CBMS Vol 6, pp. 33-60. Providence, RI: American Mathematical Society.

Dennis, D.  &  Confrey, J.  (1995).  Functions of a Curve: Leibniz's Original Notion of Functions and Its Meaning for the Parabola.  In The College Mathematics Journal, Vol. 26, No. 2, March 1995, pp. 124-131.  Washington D.C.:  Mathematical Association of America.

Smith, E. & Dennis, D.  &  Confrey, J.   (1992).   Rethinking Functions, Cartesian Constructions.  In The History and Philosophy of Science in Science Education , Proceedings of the Second International Conference on the History and Philosophy of Science in Science Education, vol. 2 pp. 449 - 466, S. Hills (Ed.)  Kingston, Ontario: The Mathematics, Science, Technology and Teacher Education Group; Queens University.

Invited Addresses:

17th Century Mathematical Experiments Leading to the Possibility of a Calculus.  Invited Address at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ.  Presented as part of the Park City Mathematics Institute, July 2000.

Leibniz's Original Discovery of Integration by Parts: The Historical Role of Geometric Curve Drawing Devices in the Genesis of Calculus.  Presented at  Semana de Ingenieriá III, held at La UACJ, Institute of Engineering and Technology in Juarez, Mexico.  November 1997.

The Historical Role of Geometric Curve Drawing Devices in the Genesis of Calculus.  Presented at The Joint Mathematics Meetings, A.M.S  - M.A.A.  January 1996.  Orlando, Florida.

Consulting & Community Service Work:

2008, Consultant for Math in a Cultural Context, Director: Jerry Lipka. I made a site visit to Fairbanks, Alaska to work with his group on developing math curriculum based on the culture of the Native American Yup’iks.

1995 – 2002  I conducted over a 100 teacher workhops in the EL Paso area as part of an NSF-sponsered math and science teacher collaborative (PETE).

2000, Consultant for Dr. Jack Narayan at St. John Fisher College, Rochester, NY.  This group of professors has been sponsored by the National Science foundation to improve undergraduate mathematics education.

1998 – 1999, Reviewer for Eisenhower Foundation grants for the entire state of Texas.  Meetings of the final review panels were held in Austin, Texas in the spring of each year.

1998, Referee for: International Journal of Computers for Mathematical Learning.  Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publications.

1997, Consultant for the doctoral program in mathematics education at University of Texas at Austin.  Director: Dr. Jere Confrey.  I made a site visit and conducted a seminar.

1996, Consultant for mathematics education research at University of Wisconsin at Madison, Director of Research Program: Dr. Richard Lehrer.  I made a site visit to Madison WI.

1996, Consultant for mathematics education research at Cornell University, Director of Research Program: Dr. Jere Confrey.  I made a site visit to Ithaca, NY.

1995 – 2002,  Extensive outreach activities to public schools in the El Paso area by conducting seminars and workshops and acting as a consultant for curricular reform.

1996 – 1998   I ran the Tex-Prep inservice teacher development program under an Eisenhower grant. This involved running full-time summer sessions and monthly Sat. sessions during the school year. Directors of the Project: Dr. Michael Gray, Dr. Sally Blake.

1995 – 1996,  Consultant for Mathematics Institutes for K-12 Teachers,  El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence.  I contributed projects and advice to the Collaborative for the planning of these workshops and delivered a keynote address to over 300 teachers on February 9, 1996.

1994 – 1995, Tompkins County (NY) Head Start Policy Council  (vice-chairperson).

1992 – 1993,  Alternative Community School - Advisory Board (a special program within the Ithaca Public Schools, Ithaca, NY).


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Last updated August 27, 2011

Copyright 2009-11 David Dennis and Susan Addington. All rights reserved.