Project PRIME

About Us

Note: Project PRIME has developed into the larger "Discovering the Art of Mathematics" project. The resources of Project PRIME remain as they were circa 2009. We encourage you to visit "Discovering the Art of Mathematics" for the continuation of the work begun by this project.

Principal Investigators

Dr. Julian Fleron

Julian Fleron is descended from a long line of wonderful teachers. He spent Pre-K - 2nd grade at Central Community School, a wonderful free school which had a profoundly positive impact on his young life. He is currently co-editing a book about alternative schools entitled Educated in Freedom.

Raised by inspiring, free-thinking parents, he was curious. While interested in many things radical - the Hegelian dialectic, the Black Panthers, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle - his views regarding teaching and learning were narrow and rigid. His sister's revenge for their disproportionate success in school was to probe her brother's closeted conservativism. "How do we know the earth is round?" "They have pictures of it from the moon." "Did somebody really land on the moon? How do you know? Maybe they made it all up." It was infuriating - to him.

It took ten years for him to get the message. At Cornell University Jere Confrey introduced him to radical constructivism and forced him to critically analyze how individual students learned during clinical interviews.

He found his vocational passion in teaching, learning, and educational philosophy ö his medium mathematics.

After completing a Masters Degree in Mathematics at University of Minnesota he earned a Ph.D. in Mathematics at State University of New York at Albany. He has spent his entire professional career at Westfield State College. This College is the oldest coeducational teachers college in the country and was founded by Horace Mann. He is happy to serve this "people's college" as a "people's mathematician."

Dr. Phil Hotchkiss

Philip Hotchkiss has been teaching college mathematics since 1994 and at Westfield State College since 1998. He loves being at Westfield and finds the community of colleagues and students here to be extremely stimulating and nurturing.

When Dr. Hotchkiss began teaching he used the traditional lecture style in his classes since he didn't know any other way to teach. Through his work with colleagues at previous institutions and involvement in Project NExT (New Experiences in Teaching, a program for new and recent PhD's in Mathematics) he slowly began to experiment with collaborative learning and other non-traditional teaching methods. When he arrived in Westfield he started to learn more about Inquiry-Based-Learning (IBL) and now uses it almost exclusively in all his classes. He is grateful that the Mathematics Department and the wider college community allowed him the freedom to investigate and gradually implement IBL into his classes.

Dr. Hotchkiss is very passionate about mathematics education and helping students see mathematics as something more than just a tool for other disciplines. He very strongly believes that IBL techniques can help boost student confidence, achievement and interest in mathematics.

Dr. Hotchkiss earned his B.S. in Mathematics from Union College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from The University at Albany, the State University of New York. He taught at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania; Rhodes College in Memphis, TN; and at The University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN before coming to Westfield.

Dr. Volker Ecke

Volker Ecke loves being in the midst of learning and teaching. He feels that it is truly a gift to be present when students discover new connections, when they apply their understanding to new situations, when they integrate new insights with prior understanding, and when they learn to trust their abilities to approach a new situation with curiosity and confidence.

Dr. Ecke is grateful to the academic community at Westfield State College for allowing him to practice and constantly refine this art; grateful for his colleagues for giving him the freedom and support to dive deeply into this inquiry himself; grateful to his students for inspiring him in co-creating and living in a learning community.

After undergraduate studies in mathematics and physics at the Universitaet Konstanz (Germany), Dr. Ecke earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has spent his professional career at Westfield State College.

Dr. Christine von Renesse

Christine von Renesse is a passionate teacher, who loves teaching at all levels -- from elementary school through College. She uses open inquiry techniques in all her classes, believing that this is the most effective and enjoyable way of learning and teaching. Her students learn to take responsibility, to think independently and to enjoy the endeavor of challenging questions with growing confidence.

Dr. von Renesse has a masters in elementary education, a minor in music and a masters in mathematics from the Technical University Berlin, Germany. After earning a Ph.D. in Mathematics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, she is now assistant professor at Westfield State College and loves her job!

The mathematics exploration classes at Westfield State College allow Dr. von Renesse to bring her passion for dance and music into her mathematics life, exploring the deeper connections together with her students. In the foundations courses for future elementary school teachers she is bringing her students into the elementary classrooms, collaborating with the teachers in finding effective ways to explore mathematics together.

Dr. von Renesse finds deep joy in creating learning communities in which everybody learns from and with everybody, regardless of level and experience.

© The material which makes up this Internet site is copyright 2009 by Julian Fleron, Phil Hotchkiss, Volker Ecke, Christine von Renesse.