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Peterson's lucid writings win math honor.

Ivars Peterson, our mathematics and physics editor, taught high school science and math for eight years in his native Canada after graduating from the University of Toronto. Those years of dealing with the nimble minds of inquisitive students, he says, sharpened two skills that have stood him in good stead as an interviewer and writer: He learned to think and react quickly, and he learned what it takes to explain complicated concepts to people.

This week, the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics presented Ivars with its Mathematics Communications Award for "his exceptional skill in communicating mathematics to the general public over the last decade."

The board -- representing the 55,000 members of the American Mathematical Society, the Mathematical Association of America and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics -- cited his "fascinating yet down-to-earth [writing] style" in SCIENCE NEWS and in his two books, The Mathematical Tourist: Snapshots of Modern Mathematics (1989), which has sold more than 70,000 copies in hardback and paper, and Islands of Truth: A Mathematical Mystery Cruise (1990).

Ivars is the third writer to receive the award since its inception in 1988. James Gleick, author of Chaos, won it first, followed by playwright Hugh Whitmore for his intriguing drama, "Breaking the Code."

Long before Ivars left teaching, he found himself drawn to words and writing. Outside his school duties, he wrote and published a monthly newsletter, PHOTON: PHYSICS FOR FUN, devoted to the wonders and joys of physics.

In 1980, he took a sabbatical to earn a masters degree in journalism at the University of Missouri, and never returned full-time to the classroom. He came to SCIENCE NEWS in 1981 as an intern and quickly distinguished himself. Joel Greenberg, the editor at the time, had the foresight to make Ivars a full-fledged member of the writing staff. And, as Ivars puts it, he himself had the foresight a few years later to marry Nancy Henderson, a writer with KIPLINGER'S PERSONAL FINANCE MAGAZINE.

We at SCIENCE NEWS and our readers have watched Ivars mature into one of those are writers who can describe the intricate realms of mathematics and physics in language comprehensive even to those who, like myself, regard balancing a checkbook as higher mathematics. For that feat alone, he deserves an award.

Periodically we are visited at the office by the younger Peterson generation -- Eric, 4, and Kenneth, 19 months. And I wonder, as I watch them play with Ivars' computer, whether either will follow in the parental footsteps.
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Title Annotation:Science News's Ivars Peterson wins Mathematics Communications Award from Joint Policy Board for Mathematics
Author:Young, Patrick
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 13, 1991
Words:415
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