
John Leen '00I first worked with Prof. Banchoff during the summer of 1999. That summer, David Schuster and I wrote the Java web discussion software that is currently used in Prof. B's classes, based on the original discussion software by Dan Margolit. I had taken Math 104 the previous semester and loved the collaborative aspect of the class. It wasn't my first class with an online discussion board, but it was the first time that students' original ideas had really been such an important part of the class's direction and focus. I remember one day when Prof. B came in and announced that our class had uncovered "a major crisis in mathematics". Apparently, both he and our T.A. John Steinberger had spent the night thinking about a student conjecture. John had found a proof of the conjecture, and Prof. B had found a counterexample. It became the urgent task of that class meeting to find a hole in at least one of them, lest math turn out to be inconsistent. (As I recall, the hole turned out to be in the counterexample.) The ensuing discussion of midpoint polygons led to publishable results (Midpoint Polygons Revisited on the Internet), certainly a first in my mathematics education, and a lot of fun. So I was thrilled at the chance to contribute to the collaborative side of a Banchoff class, both as a programmer and, the following semester, as a T.A. for Math 106 (where, by being forced to use my own web site, I learned several important lessons about software design). The direct engagement with students' ideas — not just their problem sets — that I had during that semester would help prepare me for my later teaching positions. After graduating in May 2000, I spent two years at Berkeley where I T.A.'ed introductory symbolic programming and algorithms, and completed a Master's thesis in differential geometry. During that time I got several nonmathematicians at Berkeley to read Flatland. Now I'm a software developer at Microsoft, where, quite by accident, I'm developing web collaboration software. So my work with Prof. Banchoff has prepared me for my later career in ways I never suspected at the time!


