Robert Lee Moore - Unusual Teacher

Unusual Teacher

Robert Lee Moore is known to have supervised 50 doctoral dissertations, almost all at Texas, including those of R. H. Bing, F. Burton Jones, John R. Kline, Mary Ellen Rudin, Gordon Whyburn, R. D. Anderson, and Raymond Louis Wilder. This attests to Moore's having been one of the most charismatic and inspiring university teachers of mathematics ever active in the United States. Moore had a breathtaking ability to teach students who had never previously distinguished themselves in mathematics how to do proofs. He went out of his way to teach elementary and service courses every year, and actually forbade his students from consulting the mathematical literature.

It was while attending lectures at the University of Chicago that Moore first hit on his original teaching methods. Finding these lectures rather boring, even mind dulling, he would liven up a lecture by running a race in his mind with the lecturer, by trying to discover the proof of an announced theorem before the lecturer had finished his presentation. Moore often won this silent race, and when he did not, he felt that he was better off from having made the attempt. It was at the University of Pennsylvania, while teaching a course on the foundations of geometry, that Moore first tried out the teaching methods that came to be known as the Moore method. The success of this method led others to adopt it and similar methods.

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