Spring 2001

A Noble (and Nobel) Pursuit: Exciting Math Students



actoring trinomials, deriving the law of cosines with Ptolemy's Theorem, or using concentric circles to generate a parabola may not be high on your list of things to do. But, with several vigorous initiatives to improve math and science curricula in New York City public schools in full swing, you can be certain that such matters are very much on the mind of secondary school mathematics teachers.

Aimed precisely at them is 101 Great Ideas for Introducing Key Concepts in Mathematics: A Resource for Secondary School Teachers (Corwin Press; wwwcorwinpress.com), a new book co-authored by two accomplished mathematics educators, Herbert A. Hauptman, a City College alumnus and Nobel Laureate, and Alfred S. Posamentier, Acting Dean of the School of Education at City College and a professor of mathematics education there.

The idea for the book was hatched as the two old friends were strolling along the streets of Vienna, where both were presenting papers at a mathematics conference.

The book offers new and unusual ways for teacher to introduce to high school students topics and concepts in four main areas: algebra, geometry, probability and statistics, and trigonometry. Most all the "ideas" are accompanied by figures and illustrations. Among the 101 on offer are Introducing Concurrency Through Paper Folding, Introducing Compound Interest Using "The rule of 72," Don't Necessarily Trust Your Geometric Intuition, and When "Averages" Are Not Averages: Introducing Weighted Averages.

Now president of the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute in Buffalo, Hauptman won his Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1985-the first ever given to a mathematician and the first ever won by a non-member of the National Academy of Sciences. He developed a mathematical method that revolutionized chemistry research in the area of molecular structures of crystallized materials. Hauptman's stellar career began, shortly after his 1937 CCNY graduation, on a leaden note. With no jobs in his field, he applied for a high school teaching job, but was turned down when his Bronx accent caused him to flunk the then very rigorous speech test.

Posamentier, an alumnus of Hunter College, won CCNY's Alumni Association Educator of the Year award in 1994.