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Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology Newsletter

Adjunct Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Joseph Malkevitch, Mathematics Education Program

By • Jul 31st, 2012 • Category: Mathematics Education

Dr. Joseph Malkevitch

Dr. Joseph Malkevitch, an Adjunct Professor in the Mathematics Education Program, has taught Advanced Topics in Geometry, Advanced Game Theory in Mathematics Education and co-taught Mathematical Modeling. He is a retired professor from York College of the City University of New York (CUNY) and the Graduate Center at CUNY.

He was born and raised in East New York, Brooklyn. He attended PS108, PS171, Stuyvesant High School, and Queens College. This area of Brooklyn near Highland Park is often referred to as Cypress Hills.

As a child he enjoyed reading books. His mother encouraged him to apply to Stuyvesant High School, which specialized in mathematics and science. Many of his peers at Stuyvesant were very precocious in mathematics, which initially discouraged him from studying mathematics. However, he did well on the Regents exams and he enjoyed the subject. He later made the decision to study mathematics when he was in college.

He majored in mathematics at Queens College, although he was more interested in the humanities at the time. While in college he studied anthropology in addition to his studies in mathematics. Dr. Malkevitch comments,  “I still dream that someday I will use mathematics to get some special insight into anthropological issues.” Once he graduated he attended the University of Wisconsin where he was trained to be a research mathematician.

He studied geometry as a branch of pure mathematician. Dr. Malkevitch was very excited about mathematics; he thought it was a “nifty subject.” Dr. Donald Crowe was an influential mentor and his thesis advisor at the University of Wisconsin in the subject of geometry. Attending the University of Wisconsin was a very broadening experience for Professor Malkevitch.

He started teaching at York College, which is a part of the CUNY in 1968. It was a new college when he began his career; the College was only one year old. He discovered that many of his students saw mathematics differently than he did. Dr. Malkevitch became interested in what areas within mathematics might motivate or interest students more in mathematics.

The current mathematics curriculum is designed for STEM majors and does not ideally suit students seeking careers in other areas. His experience as a college professor at York sparked his interest in mathematics education. “I tried to find examples rooted in daily life that were things that even if these students weren’t going to pursue solving those kinds of problems in their careers they could stop and say, … yes I could see why learning this kind of thing is of important and of value to society even though I in particular may not enjoy it or have skill in it.” He developed units around some of the mathematics behind the cell phone, such as error correcting codes and data compression codes that are necessary for cell phone technology.

As an advisor of doctoral students, CUNY did not allow him to advise students writing about historical and educational mathematics issues. A position at Teachers College offered him the possibility that he could supervise doctoral students working on these topics.

“I like to teach because I think it is an intrinsically exciting profession, you change the lives of people almost on a daily bases, you enrich yourself by the teaching process.”

Dr. Malkevitch works with Math for America in several different capacities. Math for America provides support and resources for teachers in urban settings to prevent teacher burnout. He helps select speakers for the summer and monthly seminars with a brief review of the mathematics discussed during these sessions.

He does a lot of expository writing for the American Mathematical Society’s Public Awareness Division’s web-based column. For three years he wrote 11 columns per year. “I write to try to appeal to all levels.” Now he writes 3 or 4 columns a year.

He is chairman of the Mathematics Across Disciplines (MAD) Committee sub-committee of the Committee on Undergraduate Program in Mathematics (CUPM) for the Mathematical Association for America. He was on the committee when the 2004 CUPM report was issued.

Dr. Malkevitch firmly believes in breath over depth. He is a member of American Mathematics Society for Research Mathematicians, Mathematical Association of America for College Teachers, Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, National Council for Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) for Secondary Mathematics Teachers, American Women in Mathematics (AWM), and the Consortium for Mathematics and It’s Applications, so he can see as many aspects of mathematics as possible.

Although Dr. Malkevitch maintains an active career as a mathematics educator he finds time to indulge in reading, listening to music, and watching movies from other countries, countries such as France, Japan, the Middle East. “I really love to listen to music, I love opera and chamber music.”

People close to Dr. Malkevitch would describe him as being very devoted to learning, compassionate, and having a strong sense of trying to make the world a better place.



By Deiana Jackson, Graduate Student, Mathematics Education Ed.D.

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