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In Memoriam: Mark Spikell, Prominent Mathematics Education Scholar and Mason Professor

August 22, 2016

Mark Spikell, Prominent Mathematics Education Scholar and Mason Professor

The George Mason University community is saddened to note the death of Mark Aaron Spikell, who served as a visionary faculty member in the Graduate School of Education for 25 years prior to his retirement in 2004, when he was awarded the title of Professor Emeritus of Education. Spikell passed away on August 12, 2016, at the age of 75 in his apartment at Sunrise Assisted Living in Fairfax, Virginia.

Spikell earned his doctorate in 1972 from Boston University and joined the Mason faculty in 1979 as Chair of the Department of Education after a distinguished career as a K-12 educator in Kentucky and Ohio, and as a faculty member at Lesley College in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Spikell’s contributions to the Mason community exemplified the versatility and entrepreneurial spirit that fueled the rapid growth of the university as an academic and research organization. He created numerous innovative academic programs, including programs in mathematics education leadership at both the master’s and doctoral levels. He was also instrumental in the development of a computer education specialty at Mason in collaboration with Dr. Charles White and in the creation of a program in Special Education Technology, now one of the oldest in the United States.

Outside of the Graduate School of Education, Spikell was the co-founder of the Mason Entrepreneurship Center and served as President of Annographics, Inc., an R&D technology company in the field of dynamic character recognition that was housed in Mason’s Institute of Information Technology. He also received teaching excellence awards from both Mason and the Virginia Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and in 1993 was Mason’s nominee for the SCHEV Outstanding Faculty Award.

In the 1990s, Spikell was one of the first to pioneer the development of a new class of manipulatives called virtual manipulatives. Along with colleagues Patricia Moyer-Packenham and Johnna Bolyard, Spikell wrote the first definition of a virtual manipulative, emphasizing that virtual manipulatives are interactive dynamic objects that engage students in mathematics. This definition appeared in 2002 in the journal, Teaching Children Mathematics, and has become the standard in the field with over 320 citations recognizing this definition.

In addition to his teaching and research accomplishments, Spikell was a founding member of the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (AMTE), a professional organization devoted to the improvement of mathematics teacher education and the preparation of mathematics teachers. Today there are over 1,000 members supporting the preservice education and professional development of K-12 teachers of mathematics. On AMTE’s website, Spikell is recognized as one of the the association’s founding members and its first President. (https://amte.net/about/history)

Spikell is survived by his two children, Eli Spikell of Salt Lake City, Utah, and Emily Spikell Sullivan of Providence, Rhode Island, and by two siblings, Stefanie Spikell of Lincoln, California, and Bruce Spikell of Truckee, California. He was predeceased by a sister, Deena Spikell. He left a host of friends at Mason and around the country, not only in the realm of academic and mathematics education, but also in comedy and country & western dancing, two pursuits that brought him great joy and meaning during his life.

The family has established an online memorial at http://www.ilasting.com/markspikell.php where memories and stories about the life of Mark Spikell can be collected and shared.