Milton E. Mohr Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics

Dean’s Fellow of the College of Arts & Sciences Teaching Academy

University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Chair, MAA Committee on the Mathematical Education of Teachers

Member-at-Large for Interests of Teacher Education, MAA

Education Columnist, Association of Women in Mathematics Newsletter

Vice Chair, Board of the Mathematical Foundation of America

Editorial Board, PRIMUS

Yvonne Lai aims to improve conditions for equitable instruction of mathematical reasoning at all levels. In her work, she identifies and prepares teachers in the mathematical knowledge for teaching necessary for equitable instruction. Her current projects include research and development on teaching prospective secondary mathematics teachers (through the MODULES project), investigating the role of collaborative problem solving in learning concepts of function (as part of a partnership of Algebra Project, Young People’s Project, ETS, UNL, and SIUE), articulating conditions that minoritized undergraduate students experience in math major courses (with Amy Bennett, through an inaugural College of Arts & Sciences Strategic Priorities grant). She brings a mathematics background to her work in mathematics education, specializing in hyperbolic geometry and geometric group theory prior to her interest in equitable instruction, mathematical knowledge for teaching and practices of proof and reasoning.

SB Mathematics MIT 2002

PhD Mathematics UC Davis, 2008

Professional commitments

I believe in Federico Ardila’s axioms:

Axiom 1. Mathematical talent is distributed equally among different groups, irrespective of geographic, demographic, and economic boundaries.

Axiom 2. Everyone can have joyful, meaningful, and empowering mathematical experiences.

Axiom 3. Mathematics is a powerful, malleable tool that can be shaped and used differently by various communities to serve their needs.

Axiom 4. Every student deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

One of the most important things we can do is to make space for people who come together, listen, and speak — especially when we come from different perspectives. I am committed to finding ways for stakeholders to learn from each other, and to be open to learning from and interacting with math education practitioners worldwide.

SIG-MKT I am the founding chair of this 200+ organization of North American mathematics faculty invested in teacher education. One of our current initiatives is to hear from faculty from across this continent about their perspectives on being mathematics educators.

COMET As current chair of the MAA Committee on the Mathematical Education of Teachers, my agenda includes programming that educates the mathematical community on issues implicated by equity concerns, and advocating for the status of mathematics education/mathematics educators in mathematics departments.

CMESG/GCEDM I am a member of the Canadian Mathematics Education Study Group/Groupe Canadien d’Étude en Didactique des Mathématiques, a group that is inspiring to me in its inclusiveness.

ICME: International Congress on Mathematics Education This is a conference that happens every 4 years. In 2008, I was part of an NSF/NCTM study group that travelled to Monterrey, Mexico. Here is my personal report of what I learned from presenters who came from around the world. In 2012, I participated in TSG 24 on Mathematical knowledge for teaching at the secondary level, in Seoul, Korea. In 2016, Heather Howell, Geoff Phelps, and I presented our work on MKT at the secondary level to an international topic study group led by Ruhama Even (Weizmann Institute) and Xinrong Yang (Southwest University in Chongqing). In 2020, I participated in a discussion group on Roles for Mathematicians in Math Education led by Sol Friedberg (Boston College), Patricio Felmer (Universidad de Chile), Carlos Kenig (University of Chicago). JongHae Keum (Korea Institute for Advanced Study). and Jürg Kramer (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin).

SIG-MKT/COMET Civil Discourse on Complex Issues Series I am the lead organizer for this new series. Our inaugural seminar takes on the topic of tracking, and will feature Thurston Domina, Dorothy Y. White, Brian R. Lawler, and Adrian B. Mims, Sr.

Mathematics Standards, Equity, Policy, and Politics | Jan 2023 | AMS Special Session at the JMM 2023. Organizers: Tyler Kloefkorn (co-lead), Yvonne Lai (co-lead), Dave Kung, Blain Patterson. This 15-hour session features speakers from TPSE, Algebra Project, and various projects focused on improving conditions for equitable instruction. Each block will conclude with a panel discussion focused on finding common ground and articulating future directions.

AMS CoE Forum on Evolving Curriculum in High School and Early Undergrad Math Sciences Education | May 2022 | The American Mathematical Society’s Committee on Education hosted an online forum on “Evolving Curriculum in High School and Early Undergraduate Mathematical Sciences Education,” on Wednesday, May 18, 2022. The discussion was moderated by Henry Cohn from Microsoft Research, Yvonne Lai from University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Kate Stevenson from CSU Northridge.

Fields Institute Mathematics Education Forum | March 2021 | The Fields Institute Mathematics Education Forum, in Toronto, Canada, promotes discussion of issues in mathematics education at all levels. In 2021, Claudia Corriveau​ (Université Laval), Igor’ Kontorovich (University of Auckland), and I spoke on designing research studies in mathematics education.

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics: High School Task Force | 2017-2018 | As members of this task force, we produced Catalyzing Change in High School Mathematics: Initiating Critical Conversations

Banff International Research Station: Mathematicians and School Mathematics Education: A Pan-American Workshop International problems with mathematics education in the pan-American region are well-document by international studies such as TIMSS and PISA, and have a profoundly limiting effect on economic growth and capacity for democratic citizenship. Solving these problems requires the collaboration of many communities, but in particular the
involvement of mathematicians is essential. I was a speaker at this workshop.

MIME Workshops: Mathematicians in Mathematics Education | 2011-2014 | Lead organizer, 2013-2014 with co-organizers William McCallum and Roger Howe. Moderator, 2011-2014. This workshop brings together mathematicians to learn with and from mathematics educators about urgent issues of mathematics education