Edward B. Burger
|Born||December 10, 1964|
|Alma mater||Connecticut College|
The University of Texas at Austin
Algebraic number theory
Geometry of numbers
The theory of continued fractions
Edward Bruce Burger (born December 10, 1964) is a mathematician who is the president of Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. Previously he was the Francis Christopher Oakley Third Century Professor of Mathematics at Williams College, and the Robert Foster Cherry Professor for Great Teaching at Baylor University. He also had been named to a single-year-appointment as Vice Provost of Strategic Educational Initiatives at Baylor University in February 2011.
Burger has been honored as a leader in education and for his innovative work in developing educational and entertaining mathematics electronic textbooks. He has been a keynote speaker, invited special session speaker, or the conference chair at a number of American Mathematical Society, Mathematical Association of America, and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics conferences.
During the late 1980s Burger was featured at a stand-up comedy club in Austin, Texas and also was an 'independent contractor', writing for Jay Leno. Humor is an integral tool among his teaching methods. Today he has a weekly, lively program on higher education, thinking, and learning produced by NPR's Austin affiliate KUT. The series is aptly called Higher ED, and the episodes are also available on iTunes.
Graduated from Connecticut College in 1985, where he had earned B.A. Summa Cum Laude with Distinction in Mathematics, in 1990, he was awarded his Ph.D. in mathematics from The University of Texas at Austin, where his thesis advisor was Professor Jeffrey Vaaler. He did his postdoctoral work at the University of Waterloo in Canada. In 2013 he was awarded an LL.D. from Williams College.
His research interests include algebraic number theory, Diophantine analysis, p-adic analysis, geometry of numbers, and the theory of continued fractions. He teaches abstract algebra, "The Art of Creating Mathematics", and Diophantine analysis.
He has taught or has been a visiting scholar at The University of Texas at Austin, Westminster College, James Madison University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, Concordia University Texas, Baylor University, and the Macquarie University in Australia.
Burger is a pioneer in rich, multimedia Internet lectures that, together with written material, form an electronic textbook. By providing students with the presence of a recorded instructor, the material is much more interactive and engaging compared to traditional text books. Together with Thinkwell, Burger "crafted the first-ever virtual, CD-ROM video, interactive, mathematics texts/courses" published over the World Wide Web; he is featured in several of the entertaining multimedia math lessons. Additionally, his lesson tutorial videos earned publisher Holt, Rinehart and Winston one of the 2007 Awards of Excellence from Technology & Learning, an academic publication.
Burger has written and starred in number of educational videos, including the 24-lecture video series Zero to Infinity: A History of Numbers and An Introduction to Number Theory. He has delivered more than 400 lectures worldwide and has appeared on more than 40 radio and TV programs including ABC News Now on WABC-TV in New York and National Public Radio. He starred in the "Mathletes" episode of NBC's "Science of the Winter Olympics" series shown on the Today Show and throughout the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. That episode won a Telly Award.
In recognition for his work in multimedia education technology, The Association of Educational Publishers awarded Burger with the 2007 Distinguished Achievement Award for Educational Video Technology
It should come as no surprise that someone so visually focused would embrace creativity as one of the cornerstones of his teaching methods:
Creativity is a means of making new discoveries or creating new ideas or objects—a means to an end, where the end is originality. Mathematicians are both artists and explorers: artists, because they use original thinking and creativity to make new discoveries; explorers, because, unlike artists, what we create is either true or false given the axioms mathematics has as its pillars. Someone might have a result that they deem "beautiful," but if it’s not true, the mathematics community will not care.
Burger feels that "math trauma" is commonly inflicted upon America's elementary and middle-school students, particularly girls, having received a seventh-grade report card stating: "Eddie is a nice boy, but he'll never do well in arithmetic." The problem is not with math, but with the way in which it is taught. "When we teach mathematics, we are not sensitive to the audience. Teachers are performers in front of an audience. Some teachers don't realize they have to reach their audience."
He offers his students "challenging questions for which the solution is by no means apparent". For example, when teaching students about topology, he asked students if it is "possible to take a cord of rope 6 feet (1.8 m) long and tie it snugly around your right ankle and your left ankle, take off your pants, turn them inside out, and put your pants back on without ever cutting the rope?" He proceeded to demonstrate the solution to that challenge, wearing huge Boston Red Sox boxer shorts under his trousers, at the Boston Public Library in the summer of 2005. He believes that failure is closely tied to creativity:
In all my courses, I emphasize the power of failure: learning from failed attempts and taking risks. Five percent of students’ final grades are based on their narrative of failure: how they learned from their failed attempts. I judge the quality of their failure by the size of the risk they’ve taken and the amount of insight they have generated from their mistakes. I do that as an invitation to the student to take risks, to try ideas without fear of failure.
"As a professor, I'm basically performing three times a week. I like to be funny and to make my students laugh," he said. In addition to his math courses, Burger teaches a short course in comedy writing during the winter study program at Williams. Combining math with comedy comes from his days as a stand-up comic at the Laff Stop Comedy Club in Austin in the late-1980s.
Assessment of mathematics
Burger states that "mathematics is basically an approach to solving difficult problems. The techniques and strategies that we can learn in mathematics are techniques and strategies we can use to solve any difficult problem." In the textbook he co-authored with Michael Starbird, The Heart of Mathematics, they offer their favorite top ten mathematical ways of thinking:
- Just do it
- Make mistakes and fail but never give up
- Keep an open mind
- Explore the consequences of new ideas
- Seek the essential
- Understand the issue
- Understand simple things deeply
- Break a difficult problem into easier ones
- Examine issues from several points of view
- Look for patterns and similarities
Recently, Burger and Starbird expanded their scope beyond mathematics while distilling their "top ten" list down to just five in their book, The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking
Burger has written 12 books and has had more than 30 papers published in scholarly journals. With Michael Starbird, he coauthored The Heart of Mathematics: An invitation to effective thinking, for which they won a 2001 Robert W. Hamilton Book Award, and Coincidences, Chaos, and All That Math Jazz,, a humorous look at mathematics filed under both math and humor in the Library of Congress catalog. Burger is also an associate editor for the American Mathematical Monthly and a member of the Editorial Board for [AK Peters Publishing].
- "Badly Approximable Systems and Inhomogeneous Approximation Over Number Fields" at Google Books, 1993
- "Pleasures vs. Problems", February 2000
- Exploring the Number Jungle: A Journey into Diophantine Analysis (Student Mathematical Library, V. 8), ISBN 0-8218-2640-9, July 2000
- "Abandoning Dead Ends: Embracing Lively Beginnings", 2000
- "'Math Forum'—I couldn't keep my distance: A mathematical seduction, February 2002
- The Joy of Thinking: The Beauty and Power of Classical Mathematical Ideas: Part 1 & 2 (The Great Courses – Science & Mathematics), ASIN B000KHB84U (2003)
- Making Transcendence Transparent: An intuitive approach to classical transcendental number theory, ISBN 0-387-21444-5, July 2004
- The Heart of Mathematics: An Invitation to Effective Thinking at Google Books, ISBN 1-931914-41-9, 2004
- Coincidences, Chaos, and All That Math Jazz: Making Light of Weighty Ideas, ISBN 0-393-05945-6, August 2005
- Matematicas, ISBN 0-03-092628-9, 2007
- Mathematics: Course 2, Holt, ISBN 0-03-038512-1, January 2007
- Algebra 1, Holt, ISBN 0-03-035827-2, January 2007
- Extending the Frontiers of Mathematics: Inquiries into proof and argumentation, ISBN 1-59757-042-7, March 2007
- Algebra 2, Holt, ISBN 0-03-035829-9, August 2007
- The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking, (with Michael Starbird) to be published by Princeton University Press in September 2012, ISBN 978-0-691-15666-8
Additionally, Burger has created virtual video textbooks on CD-ROM and on the web for Thinkwell on the topics of "College Algebra", 2000; "Pre-Calculus", 2000; "Calculus", 2001; "Intermediate Algebra", 2001; "Beginning Algebra", 2004; "Trigonometry", 2006; "Prealgebra", 2007; and "Algebra II", 2011.
- University of Texas at Austin
- Visiting Lecturer, Summer 1990; Visiting Assistant Professor, Fall 1994; Visiting Scholar, Summer 1997
- University of Waterloo, Canada
- Postdoctoral Fellow, 1990–1991
- Williams College
- Assistant Professor, 1990–1996; Associate Professor, 1997–2000; Professor of Mathematics, 2001–2013; Chair of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, 2003–2006; Gaudino Scholar, 2008–2010; Lissack Professor for Social Responsibility and Personal Ethics, 2010–2012; Francis Christopher Oakley Third Century Professor of Mathematics, 2012–2013
- James Madison University
- Visiting Scholar, October 1993
- University of Colorado at Boulder
- Visiting Assistant Professor, Spring 1995; Stanislaw M. Ulam Visiting Professor, 1998–1999 and 2002–2003
- Macquarie University, Australia
- Visiting Fellow, Summer 1999
- Westminster College
- Genevieve W. Gore Distinguished Resident, March 2001
- Mass Interaction
- Mathematics Consultant, Summer 2001
- Texas Christian University
- Cecil and Ida Green Honors Professor, Fall 2001
- American Mathematical Monthly
- Associate Editor, 2002–present
- The Educational Advancement Foundation
- Member of the Board of Trustees, 2004–2008
- AK Peters Publishing
- Member of the Editorial Board, 2005–present
- NUMB3RS in the Classroom Project, CBS-TV/Paramount Studios/Texas Instruments
- Mathematics Advisor, 2005–2007
- The Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts
- Member of the Board, 2009–present
- Baylor University
- Robert Foster Cherry Professor for Great Teaching, 2010–2012
- Vice Provost for Strategic Educational Initiatives, 2011–2012
- Southwestern University
- 15th President, 2013–present
Selected honors and awards
Some of the honors and awards Burger has received include:
- 2014 Elected to The Philosophical Society of Texas.
- 2013 Awarded an Honorary Degree (Doctor of Laws) from Williams College.
- 2013 Fellow of the American Mathematical Society.
- 2012 "Global Hero in Education", Named by Microsoft Corporation
- 2010 Telly Award, for the "Mathletes" episode of the NBC-Universal television series "The Science of the Olympic Winter Games" (the entire series won a 2011 Emmy Award) 
- 2010 Game Changer, Named by The Huffington Post; "HuffPost's Game Changers salutes 100 innovators, visionaries, mavericks, and leaders who are reshaping their fields and changing the world."
- 2010 Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching from Baylor University
- 2007 Award of Excellence, for "educational mathematics videos that break new ground", Technology & Learning magazine
- 2007 Distinguished Achievement Award, for Educational Video Technology, The Association of Educational Publishers
- 2006 "100 Best of America", Listed in Reader's Digest Annual Special Issue as Best Math Teacher
- 2006 Lester R. Ford Award for the expository article A Tail of Two Palindromes
- 2003 Residence Life Academic Teaching Award, University of Colorado at Boulder
- 2001 Robert W. Hamilton Book Award, for "The Heart of Mathematics"
- 1988 Mathematics Teaching Award, The University of Texas at Austin
Burger is the Francis Christopher Oakley Third Century Professor of Mathematics and was the Lissack Professor for Social Responsibility and Personal Ethics (2010–2012)  and the Gaudino Scholar (2008–2010) at Williams College, where he was also awarded the 2007 Nelson Bushnell Prize for Scholarship and Teaching.
Burger has been honored by The Mathematical Association of America on several occasions: 2001, Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics; 2001–2003, George Pólya Lecturer; 2004, Chauvenet Prize; and 2006, Lester R. Ford Award
- Cataloging-in-Publication Data in: Burger, Edward (2007). Extending the Frontiers of Mathematics. Key College. ISBN 1-59757-042-7.
- Grondahl, Paul. "Math for laughs all in author's equation". Times Union. October 16, 2005. Retrieved May 2, 2008.
- Press release: "Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth Davis Announces One-Year Appointment of Dr. Edward Burger As Vice Provost for Strategic Educational Initiatives". Baylor University. February 24, 2011. Retrieved February 26, 2011.
- Burger, Edward B. Faculty page. Williams College. September 9, 1999. Retrieved May 1, 2008.
- Press release: "Hate Math? This Book is for You! Coincidences, Chaos, and All That Math Jazz". Williams College. September 12, 2005. Retrieved May 1, 2008.
- Press release: "" Williams College. March 13, 2013.
- Press release: "Mathematician Edward B. Burger Named Gaudino Scholar at Williams". April 23, 2008. Retrieved May 1, 2008.
- Traub, James. "This Campus Is Being Simulated". New York Times Magazine. November 19, 2000. Retrieved May 1, 2008.
- Burger, Edward B. "Virtual Video Interactive WEB-based Texts". Williams College. Retrieved May 2, 2008.
- Poftak , Amy and Susan McLester. Awards of Excellence. Technology & Learning. December 15, 2007. Retrieved May 1, 2008.
- Burger, Edward B. "Honors and Awards". Williams College. Retrieved May 1, 2008.
- Stern, Zelda. Can Creativity Be Taught? Williams Alumni Review. June 2006. Retrieved May 1, 2008.
- Palmer, Lisa. "Mathematics made fun: Williams professor takes creative approach". The Boston Globe. October 16, 2005. Retrieved May 1, 2008.
- "Conversations - Edward Burger". The Futures Channel. Retrieved May 1, 2008.
- Burger, Edward B. "Publications". Williams College. Retrieved May 1, 2008.
- Burger, Edward B. "Books authored by and videos starring E.B. Burger". Williams College. Retrieved May 2, 2008.
- Burger, Edward B. "Journal Publications". Williams College. Retrieved May 2, 2008.
- Burger, Edward B. "Professional Positions". Williams College. Retrieved May 1, 2008.
- List of Fellows of the American Mathematical Society, retrieved 2012-11-10.
- Burger, Edward B. (2005). "A Tail of Two Palindromes". Amer. Math. Monthly. 112: 311–321. doi:10.2307/30037467.
- The Mathematical Association of America's Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics
- The Mathematical Association of America's George Pólya Lecturers
- The Mathematical Association of America's Chauvenet Prize
- The Mathematical Association of America's The Lester R. Ford Award. Retrieved May 1, 2008.