|Klein Cites Spouse and Peers for His Math Society Honor
October 23, 2007
Contact: Bill Giduz
Davidson’s Ben Klein took particular pride in affixing his most recent award plaque to his office wall.
|Partners in math and life--Rosemary and Ben Klein.|
At a recent annual meeting, the North Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCCTM) presented Klein with its highest honor—the W.W. Rankin Award for Excellence in Mathematics. The plaque is displayed now beside his Davidson Thomas Jefferson Award and Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award, his Teacher of the Year Award from the Council of Advancement and Support of Education, and his Distinguished Teaching Award from the Southeastern Section of the Mathematics Association of America.
While most of the acclaim he has garnered recognizes his work during a long career with Davidson students, the NCCTM honored him for equally illustrious efforts to help prepare younger students to be successful with math at the college level and in life.
Klein, Davidson’s Dolan Professor of Mathematics, knows intimately the importance of that mission because his wife, Rosemary, has taught elementary and middle school mathematics for fifteen years.
“Hearing her experiences about elementary math education has been eye-opening to say the least,” said Klein. “She’s the one who should receive an award. As a citizen, I’m very concerned not just about the mathematics that’s nearest and dearest to my heart, but about instruction in K-12 classrooms, too.”
Rosemary Klein is particularly concerned about teaching math to students whose first language is not English so that they don’t fall behind early in their math skills. She is also a member of the NCCTM, and presented a paper at the recent meeting about the challenges teachers face with non-English speaking students.
The NCTTM concerns itself with mathematical pedagogy—improved methods for teaching and learning mathematics in North Carolina schools. Klein joined the organization in the early 1970s because it supported his appointment to chair of the college’s teacher education committee (a position he has now held for 30 years!). His association through NCCTM with elementary and secondary teachers stirred in him a conviction to assist their cause.
He has been an NCCTM member since that time, and has served on its board of directors, and as a regional vice president for colleges. He has frequently presented talks at its meetings, and served as author or co-author of the Comprehensive State Mathematics Contest for nearly half of the 29 times it has been administered.
Outside the NCCTM, he has contributed to mathematics education statewide through longtime service with the College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) program for calculus. He has worked as a reader, table leader, question leader, test author, question author, and consultant, influencing the curriculum of AP math classes and formulation of AP exams for students seeking college admission.
During the 1980s the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) called upon Klein to help establish teacher education requirements for college students preparing to teach secondary and middle school mathematics. He also chaired the NCDPI’s secondary mathematics curriculum committee, and worked on its committee that accredited college and university teacher education programs.
Klein makes a point in class.
“One of nicest things about my association with the NCTTM and Advanced Placement program is seeing how many wonderful teachers there are at all levels,” said Klein. “I’ve spent a lot of time with secondary school teachers, and they are some crackerjack people.”
Klein has also been active in the Mathematics Association of America (MAA), which focuses on higher education. He has been a MAA governor, section chair, and executive board member. The NCCTM award citation praised Klein’s consistent efforts to strengthen connections between the MAA organization and high school mathematics teachers.
Klein, who is retiring at the conclusion of the current academic year after 37 years at Davidson, expressed thanks for the value the college places on his off-campus service to the profession. “It’s worth pointing out that at many institutions the kinds of things I did would have been viewed negatively, and seen as a waste of time,” he said. “One of the wonderful things about Davidson is that you can do what you think is important and be recognized for it.”
Klein is a specialist in probability, but, like all members of the department, has taught a wide range of courses at Davidson. He described classroom teaching as “the fun part of the job.” “When I hang up my hat what I’ll miss the most is teaching and working with students during office hours,” he said.
He expects to continue working at some level with both the NCCTM and the Advanced Placement program after retirement.
Pointing to the NCCTM plaque on his wall, Klein concluded with typical self-deprecation that the honor is nice, but not necessarily an accurate reflection of his achievements. “I think it says more about my friends and colleagues than about me, because they’re the ones who wrote the recommendations that led to the award. And I couldn’t have asked for better colleagues over the years.”
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,700 students. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country.
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Posted By: Bill Giduz