Matthias Felleisen

Digital Library

ACM Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award

USA - 2009


For his visionary and long-term contributions to K-12 outreach programs, innovative textbooks, and pedagogically motivated software.

Matthias Felleisen has long been deeply invested in outreach and K-12 education. A visionary educator, he has worked on implementing and disseminating his vision for close to two decades. His curriculum, inspired by his and others' research on functional programming languages, introduces the "design recipe", which combines the beauty of mathematical discovery and the elegance of functional programming with the sophistication of pedagogically sound tools. This key innovation guides students from a blank sheet of paper to a complete program in a step-by-step manner and helps teachers diagnose their students' problems.

Felleisen's books, "The Little Lisper" and its successor, "The Little Schemer," co-authored with his PhD advisor, have been widely used for 25 years. His book "How to Design Programs," co-authored with former students, features the design recipe and the principle of introducing data structures along the lines of set theory. His programming environment for teaching, DrScheme, incorporates the idea of pedagogical concepts of language levels, with each level matched to some state of the design recipe. These features allow the tool to provide much more helpful feedback and allows the teacher to enforce an important idiom before encouraging students to use a language feature in unanticipated ways.

In 1995, Felleisen created the TeachScheme! outreach project. Over the past 15 years, the week-long summer TeachScheme! workshops have served hundreds of K-12 educators in the use of the design recipe, who in turn instructed thousands of students. In 2001, he helped undergraduates launch a student-to-student outreach, dubbed Bootstrap, which has spawned dozens of workshops across the nation. While these workshops appear to teach programming, they also help students see mathematics in a new light and help them understand how fun and entertaining mathematics and science can be.

ACM Fellows

USA - 2006


For contributions to programming languages and development environments.