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Professor’s Book Wins Award from Mathematical Association of America

The proof is in the pudding when it comes to an Idaho State University professor’s book on mathematical proofs.

Recently, the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) named Patrick Rault, professor and mathematics and statistics department chair, and his book, “A TeXas-Style Introduction to Proof,” the winner of the group’s Beckenbach Book Prize. Co-authored with Ron Taylor, professor of mathematics at Berry College in Mount Berry, Georgia, the book is a textbook for college-level math students who are being introduced to mathematical proofs for the first time. Mathematical proofs are a carefully crafted series of words and sentences that solve a logic puzzle. 

Patrick Rault, professor and mathematics and statistics department chair at Idaho State University
Patrick Rault, professor and mathematics and statistics department chair at Idaho State University

“What sets a mathematical proof apart from an argument you might win among friends or even from some science experiments is that, given the basic set of agreed upon facts that you start from, a written proof will still be valid 2000 years into the future,” Rault said. “Mathematicians today even build on the proofs of some ancient Greeks whose proofs are just as valid now as they were thousands of years ago.”

In a review of the book, Michael Starbird, University of Texas Distinguished Teaching Professor in the department of mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin, called it “truly delightful - full of humanizing charm that softens the hard edge of mathematical rigor. It is gentle, lively, clear, and warm. …From this book, students and their instructors will find many proofs of the joy of mathematics.”

"It was a surprise to receive the award four years after its publication and many more years after we began the project,” Rault said. “It feels like a lifetime ago that Ron and I began collaborating on this book with a vision to engage the next generation of learners in the process of mathematical reasoning. There are now several similar active learning textbooks written by a growing community of like-minded colleagues, some of which are right here at ISU.”

The Beckenback Book Prize recognizes distinguished and innovative books published by the MAA. “The award is not given on a regularly scheduled basis” and “to be considered for the Beckenbach Prize, a book must have been published during the five years preceding the award.”


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