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Joel J. Kupperman

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Joel J. Kupperman
Joel Jay Kupperman

(1936-05-18)May 18, 1936
DiedApril 8, 2020(2020-04-08) (aged 83)
Alma materUniversity of Chicago
University of Cambridge
OccupationProfessor of philosophy
Known forQuiz Kids
Notable workSix Myths about the Good Life
SpouseKaren Ordahl Kupperman
ChildrenMichael Kupperman
Charlie Kupperman

Joel Jay Kupperman[1] (May 18, 1936 – April 8, 2020) was an American professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut and author of Six Myths about the Good Life, a popular philosophical volume centering on those values most worth engaging in human life. He was best known to the general public as a young math expert on the radio and television show Quiz Kids. He astounded audiences with his ability to do complex mathematics rapidly and seemingly "in his head." He also had strong general knowledge, and was often the winner of the weekly competitions featured on the show. The 1944 film Chip Off the Old Block, starring Donald O'Connor, Peggy Ryan and Ann Blyth, featured Kupperman as the "Quiz Kid", representative of the group.[2]

During his initial Quiz Kids shows, Kupperman, who was then 7, lisped, which emphasized his youth and endeared him to the listening audience.[3] In one episode of Quiz Kids, Joel showed his ability to multiply any number times 99 "in his head." When asked how he was able to do this he replied "It's a theequit twick." When asked what the "secret trick" was, he explained that he merely multiplied the number he was given by one hundred, then subtracted the original number from that total to get the correct answer.

He received his bachelor's and master's degrees at the University of Chicago, where he enrolled at age 16.[4] Due to his fame as a Quiz Kids prodigy, he was bullied by other students. He developed an interest in Asian philosophy, through which he found a mentor: a visiting professor who advised him to leave the United States.[4] He migrated to England, where he enrolled in the University of Cambridge,[5] earning a Ph.D. in Philosophy.[4] He started teaching at the University of Connecticut in 1960 and was made a full professor in 1972.

He was married to noted historian/author Karen Ordahl Kupperman, who teaches at New York University. The couple have two children: Michael Joel Kupperman, a noted cartoonist; and Charlie Anders Kupperman,[6][7] a medical journalist and editor for Eli Healthcare.[8][9][6] Kupperman was Jewish.[10]

In 2018, Simon & Schuster published All the Answers, a graphic memoir by Michael Kupperman on his father Joel's rise to fame and his subsequent retreat from public life.[11]

Kupperman died from complications of COVID-19 in Brooklyn, New York, on April 8, 2020. He was 83.[12][13][4][14]


  1. ^ Shook, John R. (15 May 2005). Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers. Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781847144706.
  2. ^ Kupperman, Joel J. Six Myths about the Good Life: Thinking about what has Value. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2006
  3. ^ "Sarasota Herald-Tribune - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d Green, Penelope (May 13, 2020). "Joel Kupperman, Scarred by Success as a 'Quiz Kid,' Dies at 83". The New York Times. Retrieved May 13, 2020.
  5. ^ "Joel J. Kupperman Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-05-17. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  6. ^ a b "Cogitamus". Archived from the original on 2010-06-11. Retrieved 2010-09-06.
  7. ^ Scanlon, Jennifer; Cosner, Shaaron (19 November 1996). American Women Historians, 1700s-1990s: A Biographical Dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780313296642. Retrieved 19 November 2018 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ "Part B Insider -- News & Analysis on Part B Reimbursement and Regulation". Archived from the original on 2011-07-15. Retrieved 2010-09-06.
  9. ^ "Medical Coding & Billing Newsletters - Compliance & Reimbursement Alert". TheCodingInstitute. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  10. ^ "Joel Kupperman, template for the smart Jewish kid, dies at 83". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 2020-05-14. Retrieved 2021-03-01.
  11. ^ Kupperman, Michael (2018-05-15). All The Answers. Gallery. ISBN 9781501166433.
  12. ^ @MKupperman (April 9, 2020). "Joel Kupperman, my father, passed away Tuesday night. He was a philosopher whose books included Six Myths About the…" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  13. ^ "Joel Kupperman (1936-2020) (Updated)". 10 April 2020.
  14. ^ Green, Penelope (13 May 2020). "Joel Kupperman, Scarred by Success as a 'Quiz Kid,' Dies at 83". The New York Times.