In Memory

Yesterday we lost an inspirational educator, respected author, trusted partner, and friend. Last night we learned that on Wednesday, December 3 at 9:30 am ET, Jim passed away peacefully surrounded by family at his home in Toronto, Canada. Read the official media release.

 

There’s something to be said for hard work. In the last forty-plus years since two of his students at McMaster University suggested he write his own calculus book, world-renowned author and mathematician James Stewart has basically never stopped writing. Having essentially devoted his life to mathematics, Jim has published over seventy textbooks, releasing a new text or edition almost every year. But calculus isn’t Jim’s only passion. In addition to being a mathematician he is also a concert-level violinist and music philanthropist. These very different themes have played an integral role in his life as told in the upcoming feature documentary, “The Integral Man,” created by Auratic Media. Recently, Engaging Minds sat down with Jim at his home in Toronto, Canada to discuss his love of mathematics, how students learn, and the role of technology in calculus education.

Watch excerpts from our interview with James Stewart below.

As we sat with Jim, we gathered a wealth of insights about teaching and learning. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Technology brings calculus to life. Calculus can be regarded as the mathematics of motion. It shows things approaching other things. This can be hard to convey that in a static object like a book, but on the screen, calculus comes alive.
  • Jim wants students to see that calculus is both practical and beautiful. Throughout his books, he incorporates that message with the practical aspect of mathematics. Solving problems is very powerful, but that is only one aspect of calculus; Jim also wants students to discover the inherent beauty of calculus. This is challenging to convey because one cannot explain or realize it all at once—it is cumulative.
  • Jim mentions that when students come to his office for help on a particular topic, and other students then bring similar problems, he realizes the topics that may need further explanation or pedagogical improvement. When he began writing his first edition years ago, Jim paid attention to his students, and to the questions that they were asking.

Want more? You can read the transcript of our interview with James Stewart.

 

Does James Stewart’s philosophy of teaching resonate with you? What positive role have his texts & resources played in your courses? Share your thoughts and reflections in the comments.