How Seattle, Washington has become a hub for both historical and recent math figures to pave way for the development of math education


The Pacific Northwest has always been quite a unique region of the North American continent. Known for its stunning coastline, calming rainy temperament, green appearance, and more obviously progressive demeanor, the PNW has become an innovative hub for various corporations and companies.

Aside from the large corporations that inhabit Washington, there are communities within the state that have taken matters into their own passionate hands.

In recent years, Seattle has become a very innovative hub for education. With lots of flourishing institutions in all areas of education, it’s no secret they provide nothing but the best for their students.

But what was education, specifically math education, like back in the 19th and 20th centuries? It was just as vivacious, determined, and full of promise. Thanks to many passionate yet intelligent minds in the field of math, Seattle was the location of many career peaks (even birthplaces) for a healthy amount of notable mathematicians.

Who are they, what did they do, most importantly what did they leave behind? Here are FIVE incredibly recognized and praised figures in math and math education.


Notable Seattle, Washington Mathematicians

Victor Klee (1925-2007)

He was known as one of the University of Washington’s most prolific faculty members with the Mathematics department. He spent almost his entire career as a math professor at the University of Washington until his retirement in 2000. Much of his work specialized in convex sets, functional analysis, analysis of algorithms, optimization, and combinatorics. Klee was not only known as an exceptional teacher but what many described as vibrant energy with a desire to create an impact for fellow young mathematicians.


James A. Morrow (1941-)

As a Professor Emeritus at UW (an active scholar even post-retirement), Morrow received quite the amount of recognition for his extraordinary teaching. His work evolved from differential geometry and complex variables to discrete inverse problems. Morrow has won numerous awards of recognition among the Pacific Northwest, but especially in Washington. In 2005, he won the Pacific Institute Mathematical Sciences (PIMS) Education prize; he also received the UW College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professorship the same year.


James B. Carrell (1940-)

A Seattle native AND scholar, Carrel received his Ph.D. in Math from the University of Washington under the supervision of Carl B. Allendoerfer. Carrells’ extensive work in mathematics has revolved around concepts such as algebraic geometry, transformation groups, & differential geometry. He even got a theory named after him when he studied theorems in complex algebraic geometry regarding zero sets within a holomorphic vector field. Currently, he is a Professor Emeritus at the University of British Columbia.


Eric Temple Bell (1883-1960)

Bell is a Scottish-American mathematician and educator who made contributions to analytic number theory, or the methods within number theory founded by mathematical analysis to solve integer problems. He was an exceptionally speedy student, earning his Masters at UW in just one year (and his Bachelors’s from Stanford in two). Upon receiving his Doctoral degree, Bell took a teaching position at the University of Washington. His most famous works are books: Men of Mathematics (1937) and Mathematics, Queen and Servant of Science (1951). 


Carl B. Allendoerfer (1911-1974)

Allendoerfer spent his early career teaching at Haverford College but continued his influential studies of differential geometry at the Institute of Advanced Study (1948-1949). In 1951, he became a Professor at the University of Washington then later the Chair of their Mathematics Department! He was credited with the establishment of the Summer Institute of Mathematics at the University of Washington. Allendoerfer also went on to publish an assortment of math textbooks.


What Does The Future Hold?

Washington state has proven with time that it emphasizes the need (and want) for a revolutionized education system, for all ages and passions.

Even back then, mathematicians wanted to create nothing but a wealth of knowledge and information for many to benefit from!

More recently, Seattle’s K-12 district has become a hub of comprehensive math education. Within the last few years, Seattle has received recognition for its strive to promote a new math curriculum that also incorporates social justice. 

They declared their initiative to combine ethnic studies with math education back in 2019. They believe infusing ethnic studies with math will cultivate newfound enlightenment for their students, allowing them to understand and embody the necessity for social equality. 

The district’s conceptualization of its ideal curriculum directly indicates their meticulous consideration and planning for this revitalized framework of extensive education. With the rise of ethnomathematics comes a rejuvenated, engaging approach to expanding cultural awareness – and therefore equity.

Seattle has remained and continues to be, an enthralling environment for education to grow. 

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