********************************** Information provided by Werner Blum. ********************************** Prof. Dr. Arnold Kirsch: January 13, 1922 - October 14, 2013
Arnold Kirsch, the famous German mathematics educator, died on October 14, 2013. He has substantially influenced the German speaking discussion on mathematics teaching and learning as well as the practice of mathematics teaching at school. A look into secondary level textbooks reveals traces of Kirsch's work in many places, from the introduction of fractions and whole numbers over the treatment of elementary functions up to the orchestration of differential and integral calculus.
Arnold Kirsch studied mathematics and physics in Göttingen and in Bern where he got his Ph.D. under the supervision of H. Hadwiger. Until 1963 he was a high school teacher in Soltau and in Göttingen and then for three more years a lecturer at the University of Gießen. From 1966 to 1971 Kirsch held a professorship for mathematics education at the Pedagogical University of Göttingen, and then until his retirement in 1987 a professorship for mathematics education at the newly founded University of Kassel.
Among Kirsch's most important contributions are subtle subject matter analyses (in German: "didaktische Sachanalysen") of nearly all mathematical topic areas. Together with his colleague Heinz Griesel he established the so-called "Kassel school of mathematics education" His main goal was always to make mathematics accessible for learners so that they are able to genuinely understand mathematics ("Mathematik wirklich verstehen", the title of his most important book, second edition 1994). In his work he also addressed general didactical aspects, such as relations of mathematics to the real world (applications and modelling), proofs and proving, or aspects of simplification, the topic of his plenary lecture at ICME-3, Karlsruhe 1976. The main message of this lecture characterizes his work: "simplification without falsification", i.e. topics ought to be simplified in order to become more easily accessible for learners, but this simplification must not create an epistemological or subject-related barrier for further concept development.
Arnold Kirsch was also an enthusiastic teacher, both at school and at university. His main goal was to enable students to deeply understand mathematics. His lectures were of a brilliant clarity, and his strong engagement for his mission, making mathematics accessible, always impressed his audience. He contributed to the secondary school mathematics textbook series "Mathematik heute" for more than 30 years. Most of his didactical inventions can be found in his textbook chapters. Many of his ideas were later adapted by other textbooks. Prominent examples are the treatment of proportional and antiproportional functions (including the so called rule-of three, "Dreisatz") in grade 7, of real numbers in grade 9, of exponential functions in grade 10 and of integral calculus in grade 12.
Arnold Kirsch was an editor of several scientific journals and books, and he served as a member of advisory boards of several institutions and journals such as the Institute for the Didactics of Mathematics in Bielefeld (IDM), the Journal für Mathematik-Didaktik (JMD) or the Zentralblatt für Didaktik der Mathematik (now published by Springer as ZDM -The International Journal on Mathematics Education). In 2011 he became an honorary member of the Gesellschaft für Didaktik der Mathematik (GDM), the scientific community of mathematics education in the German speaking area.
All his friends and colleagues lively remember the talks and discussions with him, his enthusiasm for mathematics, his brilliant subject matter analyses, his sensibility for learning and learners as well as his genuine modesty. We will commemorate Arnold Kirsch with gratefulness.
Werner Blum, Kassel
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