Statement on Service (complete version)

Harold Reiter

President Ross,
distinguished members of the Board, friends,

thank you for supporting
community service.

I am flattered and
thrilled to receive this award.

I am especially grateful
to the committee

and to Bart Corgnati and
Thomas Todd for their work on this event.

Also, a special thanks
to Shari Dunn and Leslie Zenk, at UNC Charlotte, who
helped put the nomination together.

The timing of this event
is terrific.

I'll be 70 on Sunday.

Thank you for this great
birthday party!

Service is not a
unilateral activity.

For some activities, it
takes a community.

Fortunately for me, my UNC Charlotte career has been

carried out in an environment that encouraged, enabled,

and rewarded
my efforts.

I want to thank all four
chancellors, Dean Colvard, E. K. Fretwell,
Jim Woodward, and Phil Dubois,

Provosts, and Miss Bonnie Cone, UNC
Charlotte founder,

all of whom embraced my
outreach efforts.

Remember Bonnie Cone was
also a math teacher. Long after her retirement, she came to our high
school math contest, congratulated winners, and helped us present the Bonnie
Cone rotating trophy to the winning school.

Chancellor E K Fretwell came to the first such contest and passed out ice
cream to all participants. I started calling him I C Fretwell.

My dean Nancy
Gutierrez and my chairman Alan Dow realized that my work in math clubs,
math camps, contests, and festivals promoted the long-term interests of the
university.

The mathematics
community lost a giant last August. Topologist William Thurston died.

On a personal level,
Bill Thurston was my daughter's mathematical grandfather. Thurston's student
Benson Farb was Ashley's PhD mentor at University of
Chicago.

Also, Thurston was
married to a UNC Charlotte math department graduate.

But what I recalled as I
read the obituary in the New York Times was the paper on math education he
published in 1990.

I had begun to get calls
from frustrated parents asking advice about

acceleration versus enrichment,

calculus
versus discrete math,

problem
solving versus theory building.

I didn't have any good
answers.

I studied Thurston's
paper avidly and came away with a confidence that enabled me to work
with parents, educators and students of all ages.

Having reread the essay,
I can tell you that it is just as relevant today

Thurston made three
important points

First ---There is too
little communication among curriculum developers, university mathematicians,
and teachers of that curriculum.

Second --- The
curriculum is too tall and spindly, not nearly broad enough or deep enough to
support advanced mathematics, and

Third --- There is too
much dependence on high stakes testing, often resulting in teaching designed to
increase test scores at the expense of understanding.

From this essay and from
early work with math club children, I realized that university faculty members
are uniquely qualified to help precocious, enthusiastic students broaden and
deepen their mathematical development.

By the way, I still get calls from frustrated parents, but now things are different. There are many opportunities available for ambitious students: Art of Problem Solving, Beast Academy, Davidson Young Scholars, Epsilon Camp, and Life of Fred books, and math circles throughout the United States including our own Charlotte Math Club and Mecklenburg Math Club, among others.

Without the
contributions of many North Carolinians, activities like teacher circles, math
clubs, and math festivals would not have been possible.

Tom Bradbury, for many
years an associate editor of the Charlotte Observer, made the community aware
that mathematics is **not** a spectator
sport.

Tom was one of the
strongest advocates for education I ever met.

Once he spent an afternoon
in my office with me and four high school math clubbers, all taking
advanced courses at UNCC.

He was taken by the
similarities with sports, and likened our session to a pregame pep talk.

He wrote an
editorial piece - *Work is Key*.

In a visit to the
Mecklenburg Math Club - grades 4-6, we expected 30 students, but more than 100
showed up.

What a zoo!

But Tom loved it and
over the years wrote wonderful editorials

** Math for Fun** and

He died a year or so
ago. I miss him and Charlotte does, too.

Another, Dale
Halton - Mrs Pepsi - UNCC Halton Arena.

During the early years
of the Mecklenburg Math Club, she quietly provided some funding.

But what I remember best
is the motivational note that usually accompanied the sometimes-unsolicited
check.

Once she said that she
wished there had been a person like me around when, as a child, she did well at
mathematics, but she failed to catch the fire she knew the kids at the math
club caught.

Also, Dr. Sam Houston,
director of the Burroughs/Welcome STEM center.

Sam funded three
projects that address Thurston's communication problems:

Charlotte Teachers'
Circle, enhancing communication between teachers and university faculty,

a coaches' workshop that
John Goebel of Durham directed

**and****,** following a fact-finding trip to Singapore, Sam
returned with an invitation to NC math educators to organize high
school mathematical modelers to participate in the first Singapore
International Math Challenge.

John Goebel, Randy Harter of Buncombe County and I headed the delegation of 30, which included five teams.

Former student Michael
Pillsbury is now a teacher at Randolph Middle. Mike, like me, will be the
first to admit to modest mathematical talent. Yet using Tom Bradbury's idea - **Work is Key**, a great attitude, and a
magnetic personality, Mike has a wonderful influence on students and teachers
locally and across the state. Mike and I continue to collaborate on several
projects.

I have many students to
thank for this award.

Three of these, Akira Negi, Nathan Bronson, and Scott Harrington were among the
first high school students taking courses at UNC Charlotte. I called them 'my three sons.' My wife and I
took them to the university ACM programming contest in Auburn, Alabama. Most teams had 2 undergraduates and one
graduate student. Our group of three world-class problems solvers with two
code-writers beat all but one of the teams (can I say it here?,
Duke). On the way down, I asked the kids how they would solve a problem that
had come up that day in my graph theory class. They didn't make much progress,
so I gave them a solution. Lo and behold, that problem was on the contest. I
was sure they would nail it. Later when I asked how they'd solved it, two deferred
to the third, who explained his solution.
It was nothing like what I'd told them. 'Why didn't
you use my solution, I protested.' Well, the two said, 'Nate was asleep
when you told us. He solved the problem.' I learned that my job was to drive
the vehicle, not coach the programming.

There has been over many
years a chain of fabulous code writers in the club, and each it seems to have
mentored younger ones. Many were homeschooled. It started with the above mentioned Scott Harrington and Nathan Bronson (PhD
in Computer Science, Stanford University) who came to the club as an 8^{th}
grader. After spending a year with his missionary parents in Togo where
he learned programming, he returned to Charlotte, and as a
high school senior, won a gold medal at the International Olympiad in
Informatics (IOI). We had the training session in Charlotte, and we
included a
younger student Brian Dean, who later won a silver IOI medal himself,
and much
later became director of the United States' IOI program. Brian, who
earned the
PhD at MIT, is a professor of computer science at Clemson. A
contemporary of
Brian is Garrett Mitchener, another excellent
programmer (PhD Princeton University in applied mathematics). Ryan Vinroot,
Garrett's and Brian's peer is a math professor at the College of William and
Mary.

Then came
Joseph Schaeffer, who recently earned the PhD in computing at Cal Tech. Not
long after Joseph came Anders Kaseorg,
yet another international gold medal winner. A few years later David 'Drew' Boyuka came along having been mentored by Anders, and
himself mentoring several younger kids including Brendan Fletcher, another star
programmer. Brendan, like several his predecessors took the discrete math
course at UNC Charlotte while still in middle school.

I also want to thank my
long-time collaborator Arthur Holshouser. Wonderfully
self-taught mathematician, researcher and problem solver, at nearly 70, Arthur
maintains great energy for mathematics, doing Bradbury's Math for fun all day,
24/7, while he takes his daily 12 mile hike. My life is much richer because of
Arthur. My collaborators at Charlotte Math Club have been for nearly 20 years
Stephen Davis of Davidson College and Susan Schaeffer. Recently Carl Yerger,
Michael Pillsbury, and Elizabeth Keady have joined
our group of regular volunteers.

There is one more person
I would like to thank, my wife Betty Baker Reiter. For nearly 50 years Betty
has quietly guided, encouraged, and brain-stormed projects with me. Betty, I
accept this award for both of us.

How many of you can name the units digit of 3 to the 2012 power? This week I had a conversation with a first grader who could. That day his homework was to count backwards by 10s from 50 to 10. He didn't want to bother.

A little 6 year old friend told me that he could name a fraction between one half and two thirds. 'Five ninths' was his almost instant reply. Before I could ask why, he continued 'because five ninths is bigger than five tenths and five ninths is less than six ninths.'

It was a 10 year old who
told me that the realtor's rule of 72 was really the rule of 69.2. He was
right.

In August I had an 11
year old tell me how to get a formula for the nth Lucas number out of Binet's formula for the nth Fibonacci number. Where else
but with a mathematician could a child like that have
had that conversation?

For every student in
this category, there are hundreds with average talent who can nevertheless
catch fire. We see that every year at the Julia Robinson Festival. That's what
keeps me going.