In Memoriam, James W. Heddens, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

Authored by Karl W. Kosko, Ph.D., and William R. Speer, Ph.D.

On June 3, 2022, James Heddens (1925 - 2022), beloved former Kent State professor and icon in the field of mathematics education, passed away. James W. Heddens joined the College of Education faculty in 1961 as the first faculty member dedicated to focused teaching and research of Mathematics Education at Kent State University. In his 25 years at Kent State, Jim Heddens amassed an impressive list of accomplishments:

  • Pioneering a mathematics teaching laboratory in the University School (the second such program initiated in the U.S. running 1962 - 1982),
  • Creating the first elementary mathematics teaching specialist graduate program in the U.S.,
  • Developing Kent State’s Masters and Doctoral programs in mathematics education,
  • Serving as the major advisor on 16 doctoral dissertations, and
  • Training thousands of future elementary teachers.

Heddens also was the lead author of Today’s Mathematics, the longest running methods textbook for future elementary mathematics teachers (1964 - 2014). In 1974, Jim founded an organization that became the Research Council on Mathematics Learning (RCML), which will celebrate its 50th meeting in 2023. Heddens was also involved in the development and implementation of mathematics education programs internationally, with his noteworthy work at the University of Malawi.

As is evident from the description here, Heddens’ impact on elementary mathematics and teacher education is considerable. Beyond the long list of accomplishments, however, was a teacher who cared for his students and those around him. Through every accomplishment in his career lies the underlying focus on how children think. One colleague noted that Jim’s ground-breaking work was to see how a student thinks about mathematics, then build upon the strengths of the individual student.

This focus on how children think was embedded in the undergraduate and graduate courses developed by Heddens and his peers, in how the mathematics laboratory was developed, in the creation of the RCML organization and resulting journal, and in the highly influential textbook that Heddens served as lead author.

Being part of the first mathematics education-focused faculty in 1961, Heddens created a community of professors and students. At the time of this writing, Heddens’ work has directly affected Kent State degrees for thousands of elementary teachers, hundreds of master’s degrees and approximately 70 doctoral degrees in mathematics education. He has left an astounding legacy for Kent State faculty and students and is a worthy model of an outstanding educator and respected peer.

So, how does one express gratitude to a man who has given us so much – a man who has played such a dramatic role in so many people’s lives? A legacy to add to those already in place. A reminder of his influence and whose impact on others keeps on giving. We are honored to share that through the generosity of many, we have made this possible. We are inspired by a shared belief that by investing in a scholarship in Jim’s name, we are also demonstrating a belief in strengthening the proud tradition of KSU Mathematics Education.

The fund is in its third year of awarding scholarship funds, honoring Heddens’ commitment to mathematics education. As we approach the 62nd anniversary of the mathematics program he established at Kent State, just as it was bold to create something different, daring and diverse years ago, it’s also an historic time to be involved now. We are honored to celebrate the past, present, and ongoing commitment to Jim’s everlasting vision.

If you would like to join the family of donors who support the future of Mathematics Education at Kent State in James Heddens' name, you can make a gift online, or by contacting Stephanie Mowls at 330-672-0018, or

--Pictured at top, James Heddens (third from left) with former EHHS doctoral students

POSTED: Monday, July 18, 2022 08:48 AM
UPDATED: Saturday, June 22, 2024 02:12 AM