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Juggling Math Professor Receives MAA National Teaching Award

Juggling. Weird numbers. Mozart. What do these things have in common? They have Dominic Klyve [KLEE-vee], an uncommonly gifted mathematics professor at Central Washington University.

Klyve recently received the national Henry L. Alder Award for Distinguished Teaching from the Mathematics Association of America. Klyve is the first winner from Washington State in the 18-year history of the award. The Alder Award goes to individuals whose teaching has been extraordinarily successful and who have had influence beyond their own classrooms.

“I’m absolutely thrilled,” said Klyve. “It gives national recognition to my department and my students, as well as being a tremendous honor for me. This wouldn’t have been possible if I had been at an institution other than Central—because our math department is so good, and is so deeply engaged in teaching.”

In his first four years at Central, he has taught a surprising variety of classes, developed new ones, and founded a Mathematics Honors Program. He has engaged first-year statistics students in analyzing a countywide nutrition survey, where they discovered a statistically significant link between freezers and hunger. His undergraduate students have recently discovered the largest weird number* in the world. And he has developed a Math 101 class for music majors that explores regression and correlation in Mozart’s sonatas.

“I have to give credit to my colleagues for so much of this,” he enthused. “Ian Quitadamo [science education professor] encouraged me to involve my students in community-based inquiry. The math and music class was created by Todd Shiver [music chair and professor. I’m especially grateful to my chair, Tim Englund for nominating me for this award.”

In this collegial atmosphere, Klyve has flourished as a teacher who, according to one undergraduate, instills “a lingering love for mathematics” in his students. He is a regular speaker on mathematics (and a teacher of juggling!) at Wisconsin's Suzuki music festival. In fact, he is so intrigued with juggling that he formulated an equation that mathematically determines how juggling balls fall (“A Zeta Function for Juggling Sequences,” Journal of Combinatorics and Number Theory, 01/2012).

He has already built a reputation as a popular lecturer. He has been invited to schools throughout the United States to speak about his work.  In 2013, the University of Canterbury brought him to New Zealand to teach a five-week course in the History of Mathematics.

He is currently working on a grant to teach math using original, historical sources and has recruited dozens of mathematicians across the country to develop projects to teach math using the history of mathematics.

Klyve was also cited for combining teaching with scholarship.

“Undergraduate research is really important to me,” he said, “and I’m lucky that so many CWU students are interested in pursuing research projects.”

Since coming to Central four years ago, he has written six papers with students for publication in international research journals. He is a Councilor on the national “Council on Undergraduate Research,” and will serve as the first president of the Math Association of America’s Special Interest Group on Undergraduate Research.

Klyve also teaches for the William O. Douglas Honors College at CWU. He has had multiple courses accepted by the DHC Advisory Committee and he is consistently one of their most beloved and popular professors

In addition to his college coursework, he is active in working with high school students. In addition to bringing the American Mathematics Competition to Ellensburg two years ago, he teaches under-represented and first-generation high school students during the summers as part of the Upward Bound Program.

“I’ve known for a long time that I love math, and I love explaining things to people,” said Klyve. “I’m grateful to have a supportive department and chair that allow me the freedom to pursue what I love to do.”


*Weird numbers are those in which no combination of its divisors adds up to the original number. For example, the smallest weird number is 70; its divisors are 1, 2, 5, 7, 10, 14, and 35. No combination of any or all of its factors equal 70.

Media Contact: Valerie Chapman-Stockwell, Public Affairs, 509-963-1518, valeriec@cwu.edu