Victor M. Selby

I couldn't start these reviews without referring to an article in Parade, April 6, 2008: "The Lessons I'm Leaving Behind." Randy Pausch gave his last lecture at Carnegie Mellon University and shared his wisdom that emphasized: 1. Always Have Fun 2. Dream Big 3. Ask for What You Want 4. Dare To Take a Risk 5. Look for the Best In Everybody 6. Make Time for What Matters 7. Let Kids Be Themselves. He states: "I've also been buoyed by former students who've told me how my teaching made a difference to them. There's no greater gift for a teacher."

So first, the infomercial: From a former student who sent this e-mail to: Mr. Selby?

Hi -

> Based on the web site where I got this email address, I hope I am sending this email to Mr. Selby (Vic), my teacher for most of my high school math at Carmel High School. I graduated in 1984.
> At the time that I went to CHS, if you are who I think you are, I wanted you to know that I was reflecting on the teachers who really made a difference in my life and you were one...
> I went on to get both a BS and MS in electrical engineering, one of the few females in my classes. I would love to have the chance to see you and thank you for everything you did for me.
> You are an amazing teacher and I felt so lucky to have you as mine, particularly as I had three years where you taught math to me. I grew up into a relatively normal human being but love math and the role it plays in the whole universe....
> Just felt compelled to share, hopefully Google has not steered me wrong.
> Best Regards and Happy New Year!

I Replied:
>Hey there Katie, yep it's me. Thanks for the great message. I can't think of a nicer New Year's greeting than that. I am just getting tuned in to the world of the internet and have only had the web-site up for a few months... (I, of course, sent her a copy of Mathematics and The Human Condition.)

She replied:
Hi Mr. Selby -
Thank you so much for sending me your book. Although I am just flipping around in it, it made me think. I love the introduction - I want to copy it and give it to my oldest sons' middle school math teachers. My oldest is bright and good at math, but getting a terrible grade this year and an attitude about math to match. They use partial credit as a weapon instead of a reward - my son had a test where he had a good 85% of the problems correct and yet earned an F for not showing all the nit-picking steps that they wanted to see. Trust me, I am a big advocate of showing your work, because as the problems get more difficult you need to ....
Plus you'll get partial credit if you make a stupid mistake! In another one he also got an F for failing to put parentheses around coordinates (also important, but it was in a table) instead of a B. I also love that you advocate one of the most powerful things (in my humble opinion) about math and that is that you can tackle a problem in any way and as long as you use a valid approach you get the same correct answer.
Again, punished by the middle school math teachers....

I'm not sure how you taught us (I had you for Algebra 1, 2 & Geometry), but what I recall was that it was fun and easy. I also of course remember the ultimate Frisbee and bagels.

I also remembered the Ch 9 curved space stuff - I thought it explained concepts in a cool & novel way.

Anyhow, my thanks to you. I have never felt the urge to contact any of my other high school teachers, just so you know.

Best Regards,

And here's a few more:

"Selby's book is for anybody who is engaged in integrating the training in math and sciences with other areas of knowledge (humanities and social sciences) and teaches kids that one does not leave the scientific perspective at the door when one ventures into other territories." — Dr. Claudia Chaufan, PhD, MD (University of Buenos Aires), Social Sciences Division, University of Santa Cruz

Vic's book is a different approach to teaching high school math. It helps answer that old question math teachers always hear, "Why do we need to know this?" In today's standards based curriculum, it is nice to see an innovative approach to help students connect the standards of algebra and geometry to real life. Vic's approach helps students think and apply abstract concepts to their own concrete world.
This is not a textbook for students but more of a guidebook for teachers, with Vic sharing with us his years of successful teaching and experience in the classroom. His approach will provide both the novice and experienced teacher with insights for presenting math applications from the real world, making the classroom more interactive and enjoyable. -- Jone Amador, Math teacher, Marina High School, Marina CA. President of the King City CA. Union School District Board of Trustees (1994-5).

As a veteran science teacher, I have often adjusted my instruction to the mathematics backgrounds of my students. Mr. Selby's students began their courses with an outlook science instructors work hard to instill -
openness to challenging analyses and ideas, freedom to question, and the recognition that the equations they dutifully solve are the basis of man's view of the universe. They understood the integration of mathematics into all the fields of science and broader human endeavors. In an era of "rigor and relevance" in the classroom, what better program to insure that the increased rigor demanded of high school students in mathematics is firmly grounded in relevant experiences that reach across the curricula? What better time to ensure that science students do not confuse rote knowledge with deep thinking and joy in learning?--Jeanne A. Fletcher
Carmel Unified School District 1976-2007
Science Dept. Chair, Carmel High School 1996-2007

Comments: Hi Teach, Read your great teaching aid for teachers and must commend you! My daughter in law is an instructor in Annapolis and I fed her your info as a tease/challenge. We'll see if she bites. Here is my letter to her:
" Suzy, This is one of the best 'science' books I have ever read. It is kind of a proposal or challenge to supercharge math teachers. Got it in Carmel on our vacation and stumbled upon probably the best high school math instructor in the world, who could also bring an integrating vision to your St. John's College students. Devising such a class or study group or lecture series would be a gas - for you. Browse about the site and tell me what you think about this guy's approach. Incidentally, some of those CHS students are awesome and doubtless put collegiate types to shame intellectually. Think of it, essay questions in math exams to noodle out philosophical concepts and cross cultural ideas."
Who am I? A Chemical Engineer from Caltech with a Stanford doc who did fun research at Dow Chemical for thirty some years which covered a delightful breadth of the science spectrum. Mentoring was a challenge as the quality of education seemed to be declining - the newbies were largely handbook engineers. No CHS grads apparently. Hope for change in education! Hunter Paalman

Hi Vic, I loved you as a teacher and never fail to mention your name when the subject of great teachers comes up. Though I have forgotten a lot of specifics of that junior year in High School, I will always remember that you made math fun. I even bought a copy of that crazy paperback about relativity by Bob Toben, and though I still don't fully understand it, I lived it for a few short weeks in my 19th year. J.S. '78

Thank you for the book. I look forward to trying some of the lessons with my preservice teachers. Also, congratulations on being accepted for publication in the "Mathematics Teacher" magazine. The review process is indeed strenuous, so job well done. I would encourage you to look at the Mathematical Association of America's website. They have written a number of articles about the History of Mathematics and implications for teaching. I believe that you will find your stance on the importance of history will be supported by their work.
Good luck in your endeavors,

Comments: Mr. Selby, It was great to see you today. I have always appreciated your passion to teach us Geometry and I still enjoy my memories of reading Flatland with you and the class! Regards, J.

Hi Vic,
Thanks for your note. I did get your book and found it interesting. I was thinking of assigning chapters as projects for a capstone class I teach for future teachers.
By the way, I'm discovering there isn't very much actual scientific inquiry in SCIENCE classes (college or HS), either, much to my sadness.
Best wishes, E.

Comments: Mr. Selby! I always knew you would write a book! As a graduate of CHS class of 1984, I can say you were a favorite of our class. Congratulations! Sincerely, one of your fans! K.D.

Comments: Hey ya Mr. Selby!! S.H. here, CHS class of '84. Seeing your name gave a pretty big flashback to good ol' CHS. It made me very happy to see that you are still involved in education. I say that, as you are damn good at what you do and I think it is safe to say you have made a big impact on tons of students. You were one of the few teachers whose class I always looked forward to going to, even though I have never had the greatest aptitude for math/science. You made it fun to be there and to learn and easy to stay awake. After CHS, I went to SDSU and made an attempt at Aerospace Engineering. I knew it would be really hard, but I wanted to at least give it a shot so I wouldn't always wonder "what if".

Hi Mr. Selby,
I got it today! Thanks so much. I really want to do Science/Math education as a second career / retirement job. I was reading Bronowski's book over the weekend, the chapter on the music of the spheres, and the chapter on Galileo. I also bought a copy of the Elements which seems like a nice reference, but weak on narrative. I did applied math for my masters in the 80s (functional analysis was my favorite subject) and I ended up doing a lot of signal processing stuff at work. It's always amazed me how the simple concept of right angles, vectors and dot products, orthogonality, etc.. can be so powerful. I want to learn how to get a big picture of math and how to get kids excited about math and it's applications. I've been volunteering at my daughter's elementary school, I need to find out what I need to do for a certificate so I can be a full time teacher later on.

Vic, I'm at page ix, and I'm hooked! This will be my reading in Baja CA for two weeks. After all these years, you may actually get me to enjoy math. I was one of those kids who memorized, got by the tests, and avoided calculus since I was scared to death of it!
How do you get a Ph.D. in science from Stanford without calculus? Answer: hang around so long it doesn't occur to them to ask.
This really looks neat. I'll let you know how my math education in the desert is progressing when I get back in late June.
Thanks heaps. I'm really looking forward to getting educated. Finally! Steve Webster, Education Director (Emeritus)
Monterey Bay Aquarium

    "This book contains enriched curricula for algebra 1, geometry, and algebra 2, joining this mathematics with science and sociology.  What is compelling about the author's approach is that standard high school mathematics topics are taught within the context of much larger mathematical, scientific, and cultural concepts.  In each of the three courses, the author includes writing assignments that require students to synthesize ideas and make connections among different areas of learning...this book is sufficiently detailed that a teacher could use it effectively in places.  It would be a valuable resource for high school mathematics teachers who wish to enrich their curricula and provide additional motivation for students, and for this purpose I highly recommend it.
                            -Ward Stewart, University of California-Davis