Crystal Mills, Graphics Artist and CMC Volunteer

For 29 years CMC members, perhaps without realizing it, have benefitted from the expertise and artistry of Crystal Mills. If you have enjoyed the clear graphics in the ComMuniCator and used the activity handout pages from the journal in your classroom, you have Crystal Mills to thank! In 2018 due to complications from diabetes, we lost Crystal, and while the ComMuniCator will continue as an award winning publication for CMC members, Crystal will be greatly missed.

ComMuniCator Panel

Crystal Mills was the graphics expert on the ComMuniCator Editorial Panel, the person responsible for most of the complicated and elegant graphics you saw in our quarterly journal. Crystal became an expert at Adobe Illustrator, honing her skills over many years. Once the other ComMuniCator Panel members completed editing the text of an article or activity, they would turn to Crystal to complete all the complicated graphics, sometimes giving her little more than a pencil sketch of what they had in mind. Her creativity amazed all of us! 

While her teaching background was secondary mathematics, she enjoyed creating graphics for the primary teachers on the Panel as well because their graphics were very different from what she was used to creating. In addition to her graphics talent, her knowledge of mathematics, the best ways to teach it, and her editorial skills were invaluable to CMC. Crystal was a key member of the Editorial Panel longer than any other member except our Editor, Janet Trentacosta. 

Fran Threewit, another long-time member of the ComMuniCator Editorial Panel, wrote of Crystal,

"I met Crystal in the early nineties when we were both members of the CMC Editorial Panel. I have to confess at the time I was slightly intimidated by Crystal because of our different strengths as mathematics educators. After all, Crystal was a talented mathematician and I was a math-phobic primary teacher. She never held back with her teasing about the simplistic graphics she had to create for my primary level activities. Thankfully through the years I overcame the intimidation and valued the differences that led to a deep understanding of one another's talents."


Teaching and Professional Editing

Crystal Mills was much more than just a ComMuniCator Panel member. Crystal taught high school mathematics for many years and was an early alumnus of the Northern California Mathematics Project (NCMP). She became one of their Associate Instructors and was one of the founding developers of the NCMP team that created the highly successful high school College Prep Mathematics (CPM)program.

In the '90s Crystalleft the classroom and joined the staff of Key Curriculum Press as a development editor. She was the Project Editor of Advanced Algebra Through Data Exploration and did major editorial, graphics, and layout work for the textbook, Discovering Algebra, among many other publications. During her stay at Key Curriculum Press she was responsible for many teacher handbooks connecting mathematics and art. 

Mathematical Artist

Crystal was herself a fiber artist and expert seamstress. Her specialty was making colorful and creative wearable art pieces such as vests and jackets. She was also a quilter who specialized in bright and eye-bending mathematical quilts. Crystal's love of all things geometrical also brought her to origami, especially origami that was based on mathematics. Always the teacher, Crystal presented workshops on origami and the mathematics of quilt-making at NCTM, CMC, and many other mathematics teaching conferences on a regular basis. 

Edward Begle Memorial Award

In 2009, Crystal Mills was presented the Edward Begle Memorial Award, an award conferred by the California Mathematics Council on educators who have supported CMC activities and been actively and instrumentally involved in California mathematics over a sustained period of time. In recognition of Crystal's incredible work ethic, the award was presented while she was working on an edition of the ComMuniCator, where she was surrounded by the other members of the Editorial Panel who so frequently looked to Crystal for advice and editing! 

Paul Giganti, a long-time friend and colleague of Crystal from their California Math Project days, wrote,

"I loved working with Crystal! She had that rare combination of teacher, artist, editor, and critic, combined with a deep knowledge of mathematics and understanding of how students learn. She was tireless and exacting but always retained a dry sense of humor throughout her struggles with her health. I fondly remember how our teasing banter back and forth would ease the long hours working on the ComMuniCator."

Out-of-State CMC Volunteer

After leaving Key Curriculum Press, Crystal moved to Washington State and founded Pioneer Meadows Montessori School, where she proved equally adept at managing a school. While starting her own school certainly kept her busy, Crystal indicated she still wanted to be involved with the ComMuniCator Panel and continued creating the ComMuniCator's graphics-making trips from Washington to San Diego four times a year for the editorial panel meetings. When her health issues worsened, Crystal was no longer able to physically attend the meetings, but even then she still continued to create the graphics for each issue! After each Panel meeting, Janet Trentacosta would visit Crystal's home in Washington for several days to work on the graphics and editing for the issue. Her determination and refusal to let her health issues get the best of her became an inspiration to the whole Editorial Panel. 

Janet Trentacosta wrote of her many years working with Crystal,

"I first met Crystal at that March 1989 Panel meeting and it was obvious that she brought a knowledge of mathematics and a unique vision of how mathematics should be taught at the secondary level, a vision that involved problem solving and students as active learners. Crystal was never shy about expressing her opinions about mathematics education and, when reviewing submissions, she often saw aspects that others did not see and was fierce in advocating for the acceptance of an article or activity. I can still hear her voice encouraging others to place a check mark in the ‘Accept; column of the review form or to change their ‘Reject' mark after listening to her rationale why a submission should be included in a future ComMuniCator"

Crystal was a very special and talented person and will be missed by those of us who were fortunate to know her and work with her, and by CMC members who benefitted from her expertise. Thank you, Crystal, for everything you have done for mathematics education.