Peter G. Braunfeld (1930-) | University of Illinois Archives

Name: Peter G. Braunfeld (1930-)

Historical Note:


Peter G. Braunfeld, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Professor Emeritus of Mathematics, is recognized for his research in mathematics education, PLATO automatic teaching systems, grades 7-16 curriculum development, in-service teaching training, and educational technology.

Peter G. Braunfeld was born December 12, 1930 in Vienna, Austria to Fritz and Johanna Braunfeld. Being Jewish, the Braunfelds fled Austria in 1939 via Czechoslovakia and the United Kingdom before finally ending up in the United States. They eventually moved to Urbana-Champaign, IL, where Johanna Braunfeld taught French and German at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) for over two decades.

Peter Braunfeld received his Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts and Sciences from the University of Chicago in 1946 and his Masters and Ph.D. in Mathematics (abstract algebra) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1951 and 1959. After completing his Master's Degree, Braunfeld worked as a research associate for the Control Systems Laboratory doing systems analysis and automatic radar data processing from 1953-1959; as Research Assistant Professor at the Coordinated Science Library 1959-1966; Associate Professor of Mathematics and Education 1966-1968; and Professor of Mathematics and Education from 1968-1997.

Braunfeld was also a co-creator of the software for The Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations (PLATO). PLATO was developed in 1960 to run on the University of Illinois’ ILLIAC I computer. Developed as a way to use computers for education, the PLATO system used a consumer tv and a projector controlled by ILLIAC, while ILLIAC overlaid the slide with vector graphics and text. This allowed for the system to offer interactive feedback. New versions of PLATO grew to include video games and hundreds of hours of instructional courseware.

Braunfeld's contributions include his work as chief author of Stretchers and Shrinkers (a 7th grade mathematics program for challenged students),  his research related to mathematics development and education technology, and his service as an advisor to numerous national curriculum projects including the University of Illinois Committee on School mathematics (UICSM), the University of  Boston BUMP program, the Education Development Center (EDC) in Newton, MA, Robert Moses' Algebra Project, and the UIUC Office for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education (MSTE).  In addition to his research and involvement, he has also produced, taught, and organized over fifty professional development programs for college, elementary school, and high school teachers including the Calculus for Teachers Summer Institute, Computers for Elementary Teachers workshop, and the Rockford Calculus for Teachers Project.

Throughout his professional career, Braunfeld has received many awards for his research and service including The Mathematics Educators in Illinois (ICTM) Distinguished Life Achievement in Mathematics Award (2015), Excellence in Extramural Teaching Award (1992), Max Beberman Prize for outstanding contributions to mathematics education by the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics (1980), Senior U.S. Scientist Award for Research and Teaching by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (1973), a Fulbright Travel Grant to teach and study in West Germany (1959), and the Goethe Prize for Excellence in German Language and Literature at the University of Chicago (1949), amongst many others.

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