Professor Geoffrey Saxe’s scholarship on the relations between culture and cognitive development with a focus on mathematical cognition has sparked innovative new thought in the field of cognitive development. He has conducted his research in a variety of settings, including remote parts of Papua New Guinea, urban and rural areas of Northeastern Brazil, and elementary and middle school classrooms in the United States, focusing primarily on the development of mathematical thought. In addition to being a rich theoretical thinker, he has also developed curriculum and engaged with the professional development of teachers in mathematics education; with colleagues, his recent design research that has led to an innovative curriculum on integers and fractions. His books include the Cultural Development of Mathematical Ideas: Papua New Guinea Studies (2012) and Culture and Cognitive Development: Studies in Mathematical Understanding (1991).
Saxe is Professor Emeritus of Learning Sciences and Human Development at UC Berkeley. He is past President and serves on the Board of Directors of the Jean Piaget Society, and he is past Editor-in-Chief for the interdisciplinary journal, Human Development. He is also a fellow of the National Academy of Education, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the Rockefeller Center in Bellagio, Italy. His scholarship has been groundbreaking in deepening our understanding of culture-cognition relations, and in articulating the process by which cultural settings and practices become part and parcel of thinking practices, and also leveraging that knowledge for the design of teaching and learning environments.
Saxe was Na'ilah Suad Nasir’s graduate and dissertation advisor and mentor, and as AERA President, she wrote, in part, about his strengths as an advisor and intellectual mentor:
I am personally grateful for Geoff’s unique strength at supporting students to find their own scholarly voice, build their own body of empirical research, and design rigorous studies deeply informed by theory. I am grateful also for his patience and diligence in providing meticulous feedback on my writing early in my career, which was one way he embodies sociocultural theories about the role of scaffolding in developing expertise. I would not be the scholar I am today, nor the mentor that I have become, without the gentle and kind mentoring, and rigorous research training Geoff provided during my formative years as a scholar. For that, I am incredibly grateful.
Read the full text of President Nasir's presentation of the Presidential Citation.