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MatPlus.Net Forum General Eugene Albert
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(1) Posted by Vladimir Tyapkin [Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 00:00]; edited by Vladimir Tyapkin [09-04-29]

Eugene Albert

I had a very pleasant afternoon past weekend, meeting with Eugene Albert in his home at Seal Beach, California. Many of you know Eugene for his love of ideal mate problems and Ideal-Mate Review magazine. He is doing pretty well considering his age(he is 79 years old). Ideal mate review is not finished because Eugene is working hard on two new issues trying eventually to catch up. We had a very nice conversation and I learned a lot about him. I hope I manage to write an article about him soon.

Here is two pictures from our meeting.
Myself, Eugene's wife Patricia, Eugene, and Gennady Chumakov at Long Beach. You may see the famous Queen Mary ship in the background. He drove us there in his Toyota hybrid himself!
The world biggest collection of ideal mates (50,000+) in Eugene's office.
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(2) Posted by Dejan Glisić [Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 15:48]; edited by Dejan Glisić [09-04-29]

Please write the article and give us more pictures! It is good to see our legend Eugene Albert and his wife in your and Gennady Chumakov's company. Best regards!
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(3) Posted by Vaclav Kotesovec [Wednesday, May 6, 2009 11:41]

Dear Vladimir,

thank you very much for these rare photos! Please publish more.

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(4) Posted by Vladimir Tyapkin [Friday, Oct 9, 2009 18:42]

In anticipation of our MP article about Eugene, here is another one, related to his academic years.
The article is accompanied by Eugene's photo:

Chess helps professor teach math students
Forty-Niner Staff Writer

Enthusiastic is the first word that pops into your head when you meet math professor Eugene Albert.
An animated, lively man who talks incessantly about his "passion"—chess problems—Albert has the rare ability to charm you with his complex solutions to these problems ... even if you have no idea of what he's talking about.

You end up sitting across from him smiling and nodding your head, listening intently to what he's saying, yet knowing your brain is three steps behind the conversation, trying desperately to absorb it all.
This is one intense person.

Albert specializes in math for liberal arts students, and attributes his popularity to his ability to "capture an audience and take away the humdrum approach of some math teachers."

A classical pianist in college, Albert says he can relate to his non-math-oriented students because of his interest in art and his method of teaching. From his experiences in music, Albert is aware of the problem of "hypnotizing" an audience. With that in mind, his primary goal when he enters the classroom is to keep the students' attention. He almost never teaches from a textbook either, he adds, and since he doesn't use notes in class it's easy to keep it lively. "I'm excited about what I'm doing," he says with a broad grin, "and that carries over into the classroom."

His chess problems are a major contribution to Albert's enthusiastic outlook. Albert says chess problems, his "love for over 20 years, are the creative, artistic side of math he strongly believes in. "For years I was depressed," he said. "I felt as if I hadn't been a great mathematician, just a good teacher. But chess is the creative part of math for me. Now I finally feel good about everything I'm doing."

Albert is considered by many to be one of the best in the world in chess problems. His life, he says, has been characterized by a constant striving for what he calls "magic." Everyone is always trying to find his or her own definition of that word. "Some people take drugs to get that magic," he says. "I've found my magic in chess problems."

"There is no final goal to win in chess problems," he says. "The idea is to set up the men so that they move in an elegant and intricate manner." The problems are created and worked through for the overall effect, he emphasizes, "they are an art form, not a puzzle."

Art is a central theme in Albert's approach to math. He says that the two can intertwine and support one another. Albert's music career has helped his math, he says. "Like music, math is simply understanding the basics and practicing them over and over."

"Math can be beautiful and exciting" he says, but unfortunately, many teachers don't make the effort to help the students see it that way. To emphasize its beauty, Albert stresses the concepts of math or the ideas behind the reasoning. "Concepts are what make life worth living," he says.

He also believes that most of what students learn in a college math class they don't use. It's not likely that his that reason, Albert tries to instill in his students an enjoyment of ideas. That's the most important thing to get out of his class, he says. "Life is too short, you should enjoy what you're doing," he said.

Many of his students are afraid of math because they haven't learned the basic concepts and "they can't fool their way through it." Albert understands their fears, he says, and tries to alleviate them as best he can. "My job is not to create great mathematicians, but to relate to the students."

One of his techniques is to make the students feel comfortable. This is one of the key elements in teaching, he feels. "The students have to know that a teacher is not there just to grade them," he said. "Surprisingly, a lot of teachers are scared or suspicious of students so they put on a superior air to cover it up," he says. "But I feel as if I can be myself."

Another source of many students' frustrations with math come from teachers' unrealistic expectations of than they're ready for. "Teachers expect students to learn too much too fast."

Albert "doesn't expect miracles" and starts with the basics so his students feel comfortable with math. There are so many different ability levels in a class that it's hard to know how slow or fast to go with the material. It's a delicate situation," he says.

On the other hand, William Margulies, chairman of the Math and Computer Science Department, said that math anxiety is such a large issue that it's difficult to pinpoint a cause. Part of the problem may be cultural or a result of role stereotyping but Margulies feels the problem starts in high school. "Students can get out of high school with only two years of math," he says, "and they just don't have the
background courses when they get into college." It's not the teaching that's at fault, but the fact that the students haven't taken the basic courses, he adds.

To help those students without the background in basics, Albert believes in using concrete visual images as a way to re-enforce those ever important concepts. Some students are reluctant to use pictures, he says. "High school teachers make kids feel guilty for thinking in pictures. That's wrong. In the real world, pictures are used all the time," he says.

This is where those chess problems come in handy. At the end of each class, Albert springs to life when he brings out his chess board for the students. Using tangible pictures, the class can see the mathematical process unfold right in front of them.
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MatPlus.Net Forum General Eugene Albert