Louis Leithold

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Louis Leithold
Born (1924-11-16)November 16, 1924
San Francisco
Died April 29, 2005(2005-04-29) (aged 80)
Los Angeles
Residence United States
Nationality American
Fields mathematics (calculus)
Institutions Malibu High School
Known for The Calculus
Influenced Jaime Escalante

Louis Leithold (San Francisco, United States, 16 November 1924 – Los Angeles, 29 April 2005) was an American mathematician and teacher. He is best known for authoring The Calculus, a classic textbook about calculus that changed the teaching methods for calculus in world high schools and universities.[1] Known as "a legend in AP calculus circles," Leithold was the mentor of Jaime Escalante, the Los Angeles high-school teacher whose story is the subject of the 1988 movie Stand and Deliver.[2]


Leithold attained master's and doctorate degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. He went on to teach at Phoenix College (Arizona)[1] (which has a math scholarship in his name[3]), California State University, Los Angeles, the University of Southern California, Pepperdine University, and The Open University (UK).[4] In 1968, Leithold published The Calculus, a "blockbuster best-seller" which simplified the teaching of calculus.[5]

At age 72, after his retirement[4] from Pepperdine,[6] he began teaching calculus at Malibu High School, in Malibu, California, drilling his students for the Advanced Placement Calculus, and achieving considerable success.[4] He regularly assigned two hours of homework per night, and had two training sessions at his own house that ran Saturdays or Sundays from 9AM to 4PM before the AP test.[7] His teaching methods were praised for their liveliness, and his love for the topic was well known.[5] He also taught workshops for calculus teachers.[7][8] One of the people he influenced was Jaime Escalante, who taught math to minority students at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles. Escalante's subsequent success as a teacher is portrayed in the 1988 film Stand and Deliver.[4]

Leithold died of natural causes the week before his class (which he had been "relentlessly drilling" for eight months[4]) was to take the AP exam;[4] his students went on to receive top scores.[8] A memorial service was held in Glendale, and a scholarship established in his name.[6]


  1. ^ a b "Louis Leithold". Britannica Book of the Year, 2006. Retrieved 6 February 2011. 
  2. ^ "Louis Leithold, 80: Legendary calculus teacher wrote widely used textbook". Los Angeles Times. 9 May 2005. Retrieved 7 February 2011. 
  3. ^ "Graduates with Honors". Argus-Press. 20 May 1980. Retrieved 7 February 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Associated Press (10 May 2005). "Louis Leithold, an Innovator in the Teaching of Calculus, Dies at 80". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 February 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Siegel, Robert (9 May 2005). "Late Author, Teacher Demystified Calculus for Thousands". NPR. Retrieved 7 February 2011. 
  6. ^ a b "News Briefs". The Malibu Times. 11 May 2005. Retrieved 7 February 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Woo, Elaine (8 May 2005). "His Math Text Was the Standard, His Touch in Class Exceptional". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 February 2011. 
  8. ^ a b Woo, Elaine (18 September 2005). "Obituaries: Fitting Tribute to Math Teacher; Late instructor Louis Leithold's students receive top scores on AP calculus exam". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 February 2011.