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New Math Professor Emphasizes Math’s Application to Life


Dr. Curtis Kent was too focused on his LDS mission to respond when his mother asked him his preference for an undergraduate major. She was trying to fill out applications so he would be ready to go to school following his mission.

“She wrote me again and I didn’t reply, and finally she just wrote down mathematics,” said Kent. “I forgot to change it.”

Now, several years after his mother declared his major, Kent has joined BYU’s full-time faculty as a mathematics professor in Fall 2016. He joked that he is one of few math professors who took trigonomentry in college because he didn’t have the opportunity to take advanced math courses in high school.

“I went to a very, very small high school that didn’t offer many mathematics (courses),” he said.

After taking trigonometry in college, Kent took calculus—loved it—and signed up for more math courses, where he soon discovered abstract math.

Kent said he is on “the pure, theoretical side of mathematics.”

“Honestly, I’m sure that when we more fully understand the world around us, we will see everything is applied mathematics,” he said.

Kent believes math is fun, and he plans on bringing this “fun” and excitement to his classes at BYU. He also plans on showing how even the most abstract of math can be applicable to students.

“(Math) has really strong parallels to many aspects of life,” he said.

Kent’s daughter, who is in Kindergarten, just learned how to count by tens—a very basic form of addition. She now feels “all-powerful” because of her new ability to add quickly and believes that she fully understands addition.

“But what is multiplying? It’s just adding things fast, right? Then you go to calculus… and you learn to add things continuously,” he said. “In life we are often like my daughter: when we learn something we say, ‘Oh, I now understand the world, I know how to add by tens.’ However as we develop and grow as individuals, we begin to see that life has much deeper levels to it; that there is multiplication and integration beyond addition.”

In this way, Kent has seen math’s direct application to his life. He wants to bring this passion and understanding for math to his classrooms as he urges students to “keep learning and keep growing” in math and life.