Proof and theorem: don’t fear ‘em - Dan Kalman, “Math Anxiety Treatment”

Dan Kalman has had a lifelong affinity for two things: mathematics and words. Throughout his career, he found many ways to marry the two – penning over 50 articles for Mathematical Association of America (MAA) Publications, publishing two books, and even writing mathematical poetry! Kalman’s story serves as a testament not only to the beauty of mathematics, but also to the art of communicating it.

Kalman can’t remember a time when he didn’t love explaining mathematical ideas to people. It felt natural, then, for him to pursue a career in mathematics education. While finishing his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin, he even chose to write his dissertation on mathematics education instead of a particular field of mathematical research. Though Kalman would later go on to explore the industry side of mathematics at Aerospace Corporation before returning to academia, this deep interest in teaching and learning stayed with him throughout the entirety of his journey.

Before finishing his Ph.D., Kalman took a one-year visiting professorship at Lawrence University, where he first encountered MAA Publications. In every office of the school’s small mathematics department, Kalman recalled finding copies of The American Mathematical Monthly lying around on the desks or side tables. “I was surrounded by it,” Kalman said. As a graduate student, he had an MAA membership provided to him through his department, but he hadn’t paid much attention to it. The Monthly was the first way that MAA and the greater mathematical community manifested themselves in Kalman’s life, but it certainly wasn’t the last.

One day, while preparing for a class in his first position after earning his Ph.D., Kalman found himself asking questions about the ways the subject he was teaching could be applied to a certain type of mathematical problem. Fascinated by the answers he found, he knew that he wanted to show them to somebody else. It was this curiosity and desire to share his curiosity with a community that eventually led Kalman to his first MAA Section Meeting, where he made a presentation in a contributed paper session. “While I was at the Section Meeting, I heard talks from other faculty members, and I just had a very positive experience. I enjoyed the talks and the whole ambiance. Every experience I had strongly reinforced to me the impression that the MAA had a lot to offer.”

In 1981, Kalman published his first article for Mathematics Magazine, “A Model for Playing Time” – the beginning of a prolific career writing for MAA Publications. When asked about his favorite area of mathematics to write about, Kalman recalled a specific affinity for Linear Algebra and Matrix Theory, though he has published articles on a variety of topics. “I didn’t enter the academic world with a research specialization in mathematics,” Kalman said. “Just about everything I’ve done in mathematics in terms of my writing has its origin in something that has come up in connection with my teaching or in my work at Aerospace.” And significantly, “All of the work I’ve done has been founded on a basis of material that’s readily accessible to the undergraduate curriculum.”

Throughout his career, Kalman received the George Pólya Award, the Trevor Evans Award, the Carl B. Allendoerfer Award, and the Paul R. Halmos-Lester R. Ford Award twice each, and the Beckenbach Book Prize once. However, at the end of his interview, he noted:

My gratitude to the MAA is very deep. But no matter how many awards the MAA gives out, it will never be able to recognize every paper that it publishes that is worthy of recognition. You can consider the people who will receive these awards as exemplars. It’s a sample of people who have done laudable work. But there are many many people who have written outstanding papers that have been unsung, and we should not forget all those other people who write for the MAA Publications.

Dan Kalman

## My gratitude to the MAA is very deep. But no matter how many awards the MAA gives out, it will never be able to recognize every paper that it publishes that is worthy of recognition. You can consider the people who will receive these awards as exemplars. It’s a sample of people who have done laudable work. But there are many many people who have written outstanding papers that have been unsung, and we should not forget all those other people who write for the MAA Publications.

Dan Kalman