News Release: People, Teaching

Mar. 13,  2009

Math Mentor a Sure Bet to Make Learning Fun

Emory University professor Ron Gould has developed a winning hand when it comes to teaching mathematics. 

Gould's work has been honored by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) with a 2008 Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching in the Southeast. He shared his knowledge in an invited lecture titled "Never Give a Non-Mathematician an Even Break" during the MAA's meeting for the Southeast, held in Nashville, Tenn.,  March 13-15. The MAA is a leading national professional association, and its Southeast section comprises Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.

A Goodrich C. White Professor of Mathematics, Gould has taught in Emory's Department of Mathematics and Computer Science for 30 years. He started a freshman seminar a dozen years ago called "The Mathematics of Games, Sports and Gambling," which has proved extremely popular.

"The biggest complaint you hear from a student taking a math requirement is they don't see how they will ever use it," Gould says, explaining why he started the seminar. "I thought the students would be more eager to learn the theories if they were having fun."

Revealing the number theories behind everything from card tricks to poker gives students instant insight into the value of math, Gould says. "I've had a lot of them tell me they are never going to Las Vegas, when they see how bad the odds are with various games."

He is currently writing a textbook based on his seminar titled "Mathematics and Games, Sports and Gambling: The Games People Play."

"Ron is a terrific teacher and he deserves the recognition," says Dwight Duffus, another Goodrich C. White Professor of Mathematics, who nominated Gould for the MAA award. "His contributions to our department go across the board."

Gould has also mentored 25 masters students and 20 Ph.D. students. In addition to his teaching, Gould has authored 147 papers on graph theory and combinatorics – fundamental research areas in discrete mathematics.

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