Glenda Lappan retires after 50 years at MSU

Published March 7, 2014

Glenda Lappan, University Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, Retires after 50 Years at MSU

This article was written for and published in the Winter 2014, Alumni Association Magazine.

Glenda Lappan has come a long way - from farm girl in southern Georgia to MSU Distinguished Professor of Mathematics. Due to her perseverance, and her dedication as a mathematics teacher and researcher, there has been a startling transformation in the way middle school mathematics is taught today.

Lappan, an only child, grew up in a family that didn't have a lot of financial resources. Whenever she was asked about going to college, she'd respond: "I know that we don't have money, but I have a plan. I'm going to work really hard, I'm going to save my money, and some day I'm going to get to go to college."

And she did. She was awarded a full scholarship and earned her bachelor's degree from Mercer University in 1961. She taught high school mathematics in Douglas, GA, and then earned her master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Georgia in 1963 and 1965, respectively. 

Lappan joined MSU as an assistant mathematics professor in 1965. After teaching mathematics and mathematics education for 10 years, she turned her attention to mathematics curriculum research. 

With colleagues Elizabeth Phillips and the late William Fitzgerald, Lappan developed the Connected Mathematics Project (CMP), a curriculum now used by approximately 30 percent of all middle schools in the United States. The third edition of the curriculum - CMP3 - was published in fall 2013.

In 1998, Lappan was designated University Distinguished Professor in recognition of the importance of her work. In 2002, the Lappan-Phillips-Fitzgerald Endowed Chair in Mathematics Education was created in honor of CMP's three founders.

Lappan will retire this spring after 50 years at MSU. She plans to spend time traveling with her husband.