From Chinese numeral systems to the ideas of Pythagoras, Ed Burger, one of America’s most distinguished math teachers, recently expounded upon the vast history of numbers on March 13 in the Talmage Math Sciences Building.
Burger is widely known throughout the mathematics world, and he has received several prestigious awards. In 2006, he was named “America’s Best Math Teacher,” by Reader’s Digest; Burger was also the recipient of the 2010 Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching from Baylor University.
Baylor University’s distinguished teacher presented, “Zero to Infinity: Great Moments in the History of Numbers,” to explain how the ideas surrounding numbers have evolved over time.
“In general, ideas that we have will change,” Burger said. “Zero wasn’t considered a number for a long time; fractions weren’t considered numbers. Great minds were not embracing what you embraced when you were in fourth grade.”
Burger emphasized the need to explore beyond what we immediately see in our various disciplines in order to innovate and develop new ideas. Students from across campus enjoyed what Burger had to offer.
“I was actually surprised on how much history it actually was,” said Lindsey Horton, a history education major. “I thought he was really funny and really good at making his audience actually be interested in what he was talking about.”
Curtis Nelson, a graduate student studying mathematics, came specifically to watch how Burger would present his lecture and what makes him such an effective teacher.
“I was mostly interested in his presentation techniques because he is known to be a great presenter,” said Curtis Nelson. “It was very captivating and, I thought, applicable to all audiences. Everybody learned something.”
Burger is currently serving as the vice provost for strategic educational initiatives at Baylor University. He frequently visits different universities to work with colleagues across the nation and to share the beauty of mathematical thinking with others.
“What this talk was all about was how, in fact, human beings can change their thinking, and through that change, we see the world, we see nature and we see ourselves in a richer way,” Burger said.