Samuel John Otten was born in the upper peninsula of Michigan in the town of Rudyard.
His parents are John and Mary Anne Otten. He grew up working with his three brothers
on the family farm and attending Rudyard Area Schools. In high school Sam was class
president for two years, National Honor Society president, captain of the basketball
team, an all-conference runner in cross country, accompanist for the school chorus,
musicianship award winner in the band, and graduated as co-valedictorian with a 4.0
gpa. He also produced two music albums of original compositions which were distributed
throughout the Eastern upper peninsula and the Northern lower peninsula.
In the fall of 2002, Sam accepted a Presidential Scholarship and began attending
Grand Valley State University in Allendale, MI. He majored in mathematics and minored
in psychology for the purpose of becoming a secondary teacher of mathematics. After
teaching for a semester at East Grand Rapids Middle School (with Mr Matt Fouch) and
a semester at Muskegon High School (with Mrs Kim Beattie), Sam completed the teacher
education program and graduated summa cum laude with a 4.0 gpa. (Also, while at Grand
Valley Sam met his lovely fiancée, Ms Chelsea Rhodes.)
Prior to graduation, Sam teamed up with Dr Filiz Dogru to conduct mathematical research
as part of Grand Valley’s Student Summer Scholars grant program. Their work in the
outer billiards dynamical system was very fruitful, resulting in three talks and
two articles. This research experience led Sam to postpone his entry into the professional
realm of mathematics education as he headed to Michigan State University for graduate-level
At MSU, Sam began by primarily studying abstract algebra and topology. While his
coursework had gone well, Sam found through is teaching assistantship that his true
passions lay back in mathematics education. And so it was that his excursion into
pure mathematics came to an end in the summer of 2008 with a Master’s degree (though
one can be confident that pure mathematics will remain an important part of his life),
and Sam returned to mathematics education as a Ph.D. student and Dean’s Scholar in
the Division of Science & Mathematics Education at MSU. He has completed most of
his coursework and his research practicum. Still ahead are his comprehensive examinations
and his dissertation.
On a personal note, Sam and his wife were married in a beautiful ceremony on June
27, 2009. They reside together near Hawk Island Park in Lansing, MI.
Beginning in the Fall of 2012, Sam will join the mathematics education faculty in
the Department of Learning, Teaching and Curriculum at the University of Missouri.