History: 1940–1980

Plans for creating the Metropolitan New York Section of the Mathematical Association of America were drawn up in the 1940 and 1941, and the formal organizational meeting was held on April 19, 1941 at Queens College, there being 108 people present. Professor F.H. Miller of the Cooper Union and T.F. Cope of Queens College issued the call for the meeting and presided. Eight papers were presented, including papers by Professor R. Courant of New York University, Professor C.C. MacDuffie of Hunter College and Dr. J. Riordan of the Bell Laboratories. The first officers, elected at that meeting, were: T.F. Cope (Queens College), Chairman; J.A. Swenson (Jackson H.S.), Vice-chairman; H.E. Wahlert (New York University), Secretary; and F.H. Miller (The Cooper Union), Treasurer. As detailed in Table I, meetings were held in every subsequent year, and, by and large, the high standard set by the speakers at the first meeting was maintained.

The first years of the Section were war years, and there was a natural interest in applied mathematics and statistics. This was reflected in the fact that the invited principal speakers in the years 1942–45 were almost all eminent statisticians and applied mathematicians. When the war was over, programs tended to return to a more familiar mix of pure and applied topics.

The very first set of officers included a high school teacher, and, from the very beginning, at almost all meetings, significant portions of the program time were devoted to mathematics at the high school level. At the second meeting, 1942, for instance, there was a panel discussion on "Integrated Mathematics in the High School." And well before Sputnick, there were panel discussions on the mathematics curriculum, both at the high school and college levels, (1952, 1953), on high school preparation for engineering students, (1954), on the recruitment of high school mathematics teachers, (1955), on the coordination of high school and college training, (1955), on the high school curriculum for bright students, (1956), on what a high school teacher should know about subjects and techniques, (1958), and on geometry in the curriculum, (1959).

In the 1960's, under the influence of the ever growing importance of the computer and of the ever more spectacular, space explorations, there were many attempts to rethink the mathematical curricula for our schools and colleges. For instance, at the national level, there were the School Mathematics Study Groups, the MAA committees on the Undergraduate Program in Mathematics, and the Cambridge Conference, among others. Not only were general reorganizations proposed, but many specific courses and text materials were prepared and tried out.

Our members were vitally interested in these efforts and so we find many symposia and panel discussions on these matters at our annual meetings in that period. For instance, there were programs on the preparation for professional mathematics, (1962), on the Cambridge Conference report entitled "Goals for School Mathematics," (1964), on the place of computing in the curriculum, (1965), on the transition from high school to college, (1966), on the first two years of collegiate mathematics, (1968), on the secondary school curriculum, (1969), and on the pros and cons of the "New Math," (1974).

There had been a growing realization in the 1960's that our educational system, in many significant ways, was not successful for many minority groups. Locally, demonstrations at City College in 1969 focused attention on these problems and caused the City University and many other institutions to speed up their efforts to help minority groups gain the same educational opportunities others had. And so we find annual section meetings discussing the Implications of Open enrollment, (1970), the impact of Open Admissions, (1971), the pros and cons of Accreditation in Mathematics, (1971), and the wider implications of Mathematics in Contemporary Society, (1973).

The sudden change from a shortage of mathematics teachers at all levels in the 1960's to a surplus, especially at the college level, in the 1970's helped to force attention to the contention that American mathematics was not concerned enough with applications. Our annual meetings in turn reflected an increased concern with applications. Thus we discussed Applications of Mathematics in the Real World, (1976), Bayesians vs. Non-Bayesians, (1978), the Interface of Electronics and Mathematics, (1980), and the Role of the Computer in the Schools, (1981).

While the annual meetings remained the single activity participated in by more MAA members than any other, our section pioneered in establishing several services for the general mathematical community.

The first of these special services was the sponsorship of an annual high school contest. Contest activities already existed in the Metropolitan New York area high schools, but it was felt that we could increase interest in mathematics in the high schools by running one large contest each year, and that also, we might perhaps influence the high school curriculum by our choices of questions. Charles Salkind, then at Tilden High School, and Professor W.F. Fagerstrom of City College formed a wonderful team to push a fruitful idea at just the right time. They presented the resolution for sponsoring the contest at the 1949 meeting, and, in 1950, administered the first contest under our section's sponsorship. They did a tremendous amount of work personally in organizing the question papers, getting them printed and distributed, and then correlating the results, distributing prizes, etc. It was a remarkably efficient effort, accomplished with little or no clerical help. The entire mathematical community owes these men a great debt for their enthusiasm, good judgement, and very hard work. In Table II A the growth of the contest to 1957 is illustrated. In that year our section resolved to turn the contest over to the national MAA, since it was obvious that there was substantial national and even international interest in the contest.

Professors Fagerstrom and Salkind then became the chairmen of the national MAA High School Contest Committee. Through the years, many other members of our section accepted responsibilities for preparing the national contest, including R. Artino, A. Gaglione, A. Schwartz, and N. Shell.

The responsibilities of administering the national contest for our local schools were always considerable because of the intense interest in the contest in this area, and we owe a debt of gratitude for this work to C. Salkind, E. Shapiro, H. Ruderman, M. Friedman and our present regional director, S. Pulver.

The second of our section's special services for the mathematical community was the organization of our Speaker's Bureau, formed to furnish lectures to high school mathematics clubs, special classes, and teachers groups.

The Speaker Bureau was established by resolution at the 1958 meeting, soon after the launching of Sputnick had created renewed, intense interest in revitalizing our teaching at all levels. Professor J. N. Eastham directed our project from the very first day to 1973, and did the detailed work necessary to bring it to life and maintain it.

The first booklet listing speakers and their topics was sent to 235 high schools in January 1959. In the very first year 24 speakers were asked to lecture 60 times at 22 schools to an estimated collective audience of 3283. The rapid growth of this service to the community is illustrated in Table III. Part of a sample booklet, listing speakers and topics, is given in Table IV. A list of Steering Committee members is also given.

A National Science Foundation grant to pay for speakers' expenses was awarded to our section in April 1959, and a new grant which included small honoraria for the speakers was awarded to our section the following year. From 1962 to 1967 our program received grants from the National Science Foundation through the national MAA Committee on Secondary School Lecturere, the State Academies of Science Program, and the Program on Pre-College Education in Science. When supporting grants could no longer be obtained after 1967, speakers continued the program without financial remuneration of any sort. Expenses for the preparation and distribution of booklets were borne by our local section, The Cooper Union and Queensborough Community College.

Most unfortunately, there was a strike of public high school teachers in 1967, and it became impossible to continue the Lecture service at most public high schools. Even when the strike was over there was a severe curtailment of extracurricular activities, and this accounts for the inability of the Speakers Bureau to continue its service at its former pace. After J. Eastham retired in 1973, H. Kleiman directed the Speakers' Bureau until 1979. The most recent directors are G. Berresford and M. Yablon. In the 1970's, some of the financial support for the Speakers' Bureau was received from the Actuaries Club of New York.

Our section has served the local mathematical community in a third way, by organizing an annual Mathematics Fair. Following the excellent work of Alfred Kalfus and others in Nassau and Suffolk counties, our section held the first Mathematics Fair for the metropolitan region at Pace College in 1969. Students were encouraged to read and think, to write papers on what they had learned, and then to give talks before judges who could offer advice. The growth of the Fair is illustrated in Table V. All the Fairs were held at the downtown Manhattan campus of Pace College because this was an excellent site for the Fair, and because Pace College was most cooperative.

Through the years many helped by encouraging the writing of student papers, by acting as judges, and by doing the necessary detailed organizational work. Here we can only mention briefly the first Math Fair Committee, consisting of W. Zlot (Baruch College), Chairman, T. J. Barz (St. John's University), C. Cohen (Stuyvesant High School), J. Cohen (Roosevelt High School), A. Hart (Nazareth High School), M. Jordan (Brooklyn College), H. Ruderman (Hunter College High School), C.T. Salkind (Polytechnical Institute of Brooklyn), N. Schaumberger (Bronx Community College), and A. Schwartz (City College). H. Ruderman served as chairman from 1970 to 1977. Then T. Barz became chairperson, W. Zlot, A. Hart, C. Cohen and H. Ruderman continued their valuable service, and newer workers included J.A. Chiarmonte (St. John's University), L. Berman (Bronx Science High School), L.E. Christ (John Jay College), C. Goodman (Cardozo High School), J. Kaufman (New York City Board of Education), L. Levine (Queensborough Community College), S. Pulver (Pace University), P. Shenkin (John Jay College), and K. Weissman (Hamilton High School).

Cosponsors and financial supporters of the New York Fair at present include the Actuaries' Club of New York, the New York Chapter of the American Statistical Association, and the Association of Teachers of Mathematics of New York City.

Many devoted men and women have served our section in its first forty years, and some who have worked especially hard in the section's community services have already been mentioned. The Section officers are listed in Table VI.

It is difficult to single out individuals when so many have served, but one cannot discuss the history of our section without making special mention of the contribution of Aaron Shapiro of Midwood High School. He served as treasurer for the years 1945–1972, about two-thirds of our first forty years. Not only did he manage our finances efficiently, a complex matter when contest funds had to be traced carefully, but he served as a wise advisor for the section's activities. We are grateful to him.

May the Metropolitan New York Section continue to serve the teachers and students of Mathematics of our area for another forty years, continuing to conserve what is basic in our educational practice and encouraging constructive changes as circumstances change.