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David Clark, Alder Award 2018

Over the past six years, David Clark has been an innovative and energetic teacher, leader, and scholar. Beginning with his post-doc days at the University of Minnesota's Mathematics Center for Educational Programs (MathCEP), he was heavily engaged in undergraduate research which led to publication. Continuing with his work at Grand Valley State University, David mastered the use of Standards Based Grading (SBG). Concentrating on mastering skills above earning points, he fosters deep learning throughout the classroom experience. In an effort to help others learn these techniques, David has offered an MAA minicourse on SBG. As his nomination application stated, “David's success can be best defined by his students' successes.” In total, twenty-two students have been mentored by him, many of them receiving awards and grants based on their work. To further serve the mathematical community, David is co-authoring a book on mathematical enrichment activities and participates in MathPath, a summer math program for students aged 11–14. We could go on but believe this is sufficient evidence to recommend David Clark for the Alder Award.


I am humbled and honored to be a recipient of the 2018 Alder Award. I wouldn't be here—or anywhere near here—without the faith, support, and encouragement of a lot of people.

From the very beginning, my parents (both teachers themselves) showed me what it means to care about your students. They endlessly supported my interest in math, no matter how confused they were by it!

My high school math teacher, Diane Colbry, showed me how interesting math could be and encouraged me to go to college at Michigan Tech. At Tech, I met David Olson, who first introduced me to inquiry-based learning. It blew my mind. David also modeled what it means to be a reflective teacher and gave me many opportunities to become one myself. In my post-doc at the University of Minnesota, Jon Rogness's thoughtful and thoroughly Minnesotan mentoring helped me grow beyond what I thought was possible. He pushed me to try new things (like undergraduate research), reflect, and think deeply about my students' needs. My colleagues at GVSU have created a department and university where innovative teaching is not just valued but expected. They support me, encourage me, and make a space where I can experiment and improve. There's a reason that I often say that I teach in a “magical land”.

And finally, there's no way that I could say enough about my wife and best friend, Sarah. So I won't, and I'll stop here instead.


David Clark is an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics at Grand Valley State University. He earned his PhD in 2012 at Michigan Technological University. He then spent two years as a teaching postdoc at the University of Minnesota's Mathematics Center for Educational Programs, where he taught talented high school students in the University of Minnesota Talented Youth Mathematics Program (UMTYMP). During this time, he joined MAA's Project NExT as a member of the Silver12 cohort. In 2014, he moved back to his home state of Michigan and accepted a position at GVSU. His research is in discrete math, and he loves working on research projects with undergraduates. Favorite topics include guessing games (related to error-correcting codes) and games played on finite geometries. He is a founding editor of the Minnesota Journal of Undergraduate Mathematics. David is deeply committed to enrichment and outreach programs, especially through MathPath, a month-long residential enrichment program for middle-school aged students. He also co-organizes Math in Action, a professional development conference for Michigan teachers. Beyond math, he is an avid backpacker and boardgamer.