2002 Norman Rice - Distinguished Teaching Award

Dr. Norman M. Rice, Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario is the Seaway Section of the Mathematical Association of America's nominee for the 2002 Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics.

Professor Rice's nomination is grounded in a distinguished thirty-six year teaching career in which his many significant contributions to the undergraduate program in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Queen's University and the students it serves set him apart as most deserving of this nomination. Dr. Rice has had a profound and powerful influence at Queen's extending well beyond his own classroom : in shaping the undergraduate mathematics and statistics curriculum; in creating an environment for undergraduates that welcomes and supports a wide variety of students; in providing a mathematically and intellectually rich experience that students appreciate and remember long after they have left Queen's; in modeling for future mathematics teachers at all levels how to integrate mathematical substance and enthusiasm with thoughtful and effective communication.

Quotations from Colleagues:

"Two things stand out for me: that his teaching contributions and successes have been singularly widespread, and have endured past his own association with courses he has developed; and that over the years I have noted numerous occasions in which a conversation with a student, having somehow touched on one of his courses, elicited from the student unsolicited praise for Norman's courses or for his teaching."

"As former Chair of Undergraduate Studies, and as advisor to subsequent chairs through his committee work and collegial consultation, Norman has provided wise, practical and effective guidance to keep us serving all our students. His multi-faceted involvement over the years with pre-university mathematics, including teaching enrichment courses, serving on liaison committees with the Faculty of Education, and working with high school teacher organizations, has made him invaluable in shaping a set of courses that serve those of our students who intent to teach high school mathematics."

"There is not a single one among my colleagues whose contribution to teaching over these more than 30 years matches Norm's. His student evaluations are consistently excellent; his readiness to teach courses that are unpopular with colleagues, or to take a course over and above his normal teaching load, has rescued the department from many awkward staffing situations; and his role in designing new courses or new curricula for existing courses has been crucial in the Department's efforts to respond to changing needs."

"Especially noteworthy are the courses he designed over the years in response to specific Department needs. Often there were no textbooks for these courses, so that Norm had to put together not only the syllabus, but also the lecture notes. For example, about 10 years ago we were very concerned about the attrition in our mainstream mathematics program. Many students dropped out of our mathematics concentration, finding it too abstract and demanding. At the same time, the number of school teachers with a mathematics background was (and still is) appallingly low. In response to these concerns, Norm designed two courses under the rubic "Elementary Mathematics from an Advanced Point of View". The first course, "Advanced elementary Number Systems" looks at number systems (integers, rationals, reals, complexes, quaternions and non-standard analysis) from both the axiomatic and the historical point of view. The second course, ""Advanced Elementary Geometry"" looks at Euclidean, Projective and Non-Euclidean geometries from axiomatic, analytic and historical perspectives. More recently Norm created a course on linear and nonlinear programming. Each of these courses has become a popular item in the Department curriculum, and helps to open it up to students who want to become mathematics teachers, and others not planning to go to graduate school."

""The student evaluations of Norm's teaching are as good as any in the Department, perhaps better than any others'. Typical student comments include, ""He is very enthusiastic and enjoys being up there"", ""I used to hate calculus, but ironically this was my favorite course this year"", ""excellent prof!"", ""well conceived course, well executed"", ""teacher is very easy going and approachable"", and so on. To a Department Head, a teacher like this is a gift!""

""More than anyone else I know, Norman has dedicated his energy to creating courses that students need and are happy to take. His courses are interesting and useful in themselves and they help to knit together our offerings so that students can leave with a degree that is more than the sum of its parts.""

""The courses developed by Norman Rice are accessible, flexible in application, and well designed. They are key to many of our programs.""

""Our ability to offer Introduction to Operations Research Models, Mathematical Theory of Interest, Linear and Nonlinear Programming, and Applications of Matrix Algebra at a suitable level makes these ventures [into the Queen's Actuarial Program] credible and depends entirely on the intellectual and organizational ability of Norman Rice. Mathematical Theory of Interest and Linear and Nonlinear Programming are courses that he has created in the form we give them.""

Quotations from former students:

""Dr. Rice has demonstrated the kind of outstanding teaching skills both in and out of class that render him favoured among many mathematics students at Queen's University.""

""His communication of course lectures is very comprehensive and he encourages input and questions from students in his classes. Dr. Rice effectively employs visual aids such as overheads and handouts to further develop the student's understanding. Most importantly, beyond these measures, he simply has a gift for taking difficult and complicated material and making it accessible to everyone. The ability to present his lessons this way is very encouraging to students in that he makes them feel that anybody can learn and understand mathematics, not just those with a predisposed talent towards it. This quality is rare and even more appreciated in a field such as mathematics that is often seen as very intimidating to students.""

""Out of class Dr. Rice has shown himself to be, in my opinion, the most accessible professor in the Mathematics department.""

""Professor Rice's lectures are always interesting not only because they are well organized, but because of his light-hearted sense of humor. Professor Rice's approachable personality allows his students to make use of the extra help that is readily available.""

""Dr. Norman Rice has been one of the most influential teachers I have had during my University career. In many years, when I look back at my time at Queen's , I know that Dr. Rice will stand out as one of the reasons I was so successful here. Not only has he taught me a lot in the four courses I have had him for, but he has shown me new ways of thinking, given me confidence in myself and my mathematical abilities, encouraged me and guided me. Dr. Rice will always stand out as one of the teachers who has influenced my life in great ways.""

""Being a shy person, I am often nervous to speak in class, however, this is not the case in Dr. Rice's classes. He makes every student feel so comfortable that class discussions in which most of the class is participating, is not unusual.""

""Not only is Dr. Rice an easy person to talk to in class, he is also extremely approachable outside the classroom. I am not sure what Dr. Rice's office hours are and it doesn't matter, because he is always in his office with his door wide open. Every time I have gone to him for help he has immediately put what he was working on aside and given me his full attention until I understood exactly what I was having problems with.""

""Overall, Dr. Rice is one of the best teachers I have had. He can make difficult and challenging concepts easy to understand and he has given me so much confidence in myself. I have not only been a success at university, but in mathematics as well, and I have professors like Dr. Rice to thank for that.""

It is with great honor and respect that we nominate, Norman M. Rice, as the Seaway Section of the Mathematical Association of America's nominee for the 2002 Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics.

The Seaway Section of the Mathematical Association of America's Distinguished Teaching Awards Committee for 2001-02:

Vasily C. Cateforis ( Chair), SUNY Potsdam
Maruja Lander, Broome Community College
Leonard Malinowski, Finger Lakes Community College (ex-officio member)
David Manes, SUNY Oneonta