Mathematical Autobiography

Larry Riddle

I taught mathematics at Agnes Scott College for 30 years before retiring in 2019, and before that I taught at Emory University for seven years. My interests in mathematics goes back much further, however. I was always interested in math at Jenkintown High School. Perhaps that was because one of my sisters was a mathematics major at the College of Wooster. Or perhaps it was because I enjoyed the excitement of finding solutions to (what appeared to me to be) difficult and interesting problems. Maybe it was because I always got the jobs in school that required math, like class treasurer and statistician for the football and basketball teams. (I decided statistician was the more proper role for me after being thrown only two passes during my one year of junior high football--but I did catch one.) Or it might even have been because Mr. Flynn, my high school mathematics teacher, took the time to play chess with me on so many afternoons, and to tutor me in AP Calculus since our school was too small to have a calculus course. Whichever, I knew from my first day at Carnegie Mellon University that I wanted to major in mathematics, and so I did.

After college I studied mathematics for a year at Cambridge University in England thanks to a Churchill Scholarship. That was an incredible year during which I thoroughly enjoyed learning mathematics for pleasure rather than grades, playing basketball throughout England on the Cambridge University club team (except for getting trounced by the American Rhode Scholars at Oxford University), and sampling the atmosphere of the British pubs. Upon my return from England I began graduate studies in mathematics at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, earning my Ph.D. five years later and then moving to Atlanta.

I was involved with the AP Calculus program for almost 25 years, first as a Reader, then a Table Leader and an Exam Leader. In July 1999, I became the Chief Reader for AP Calculus and served a four year term. In this position I was responsible for organizing and overseeing the annual AP Calculus Reading during which the free-response section of the exam was graded by over 600 college and high school mathematics teachers at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. As Chief Reader I also attended all the meetings of the AP Calculus Development committee that writes the AP exam and develops the curriculum for the AP Calculus program. In July 2005 I became the chair of this committee and served a two-year term.

I enjoy hiking, camping, and bicycling with my wife, Cheryl, a professional harpist. I play music, also, as a recorder player with Lauda Musicam of Atlanta (formerly the Emory Early Music Consort). Sometimes we even get to play together! You can listen to us play the Prelude from John Rutter's Suite Antique with harp and alto recorder from a concert in 2006 [mp3 file], or Irish Lamentations with celtic harp and tenor recorder from a 2009 concert [mp3 file]. There seems to be a close connection between interest in mathematics and music, as many mathematicians are also amateur musicians. Perhaps both mathematics and music share a similar form and structure, arising from a few basic ideas and concepts to build incredibly complex yet beautiful themes. My other interest is sports. I enjoy playing tennis and regularly rode my bicycle to school (weather permitting). The latter was a good way to build up my miles for the Atlanta Clean Air Campaign!

I also enjoyed using technology to help teach students about mathematics and the applications of mathematics. It is amazing how far we have come from the days when I started doing mathematics with a slide rule. I believe that graphing calculators and computer software such as GeoGebra and Maple can help students develop an understanding that mathematics is not just a collection of facts, methods, strategies, and answers, but that it is also a powerful and useful tool for understanding the world around us and for developing the problem-solving skills needed to function successfully in the 21st century.

As part of my work with students I began developing a website on biographies of women mathematicians in the mid 90's. This project has been an on-going activity ever since and now profiles over 150 women, illustrating their lives and many accomplishments in mathematics. Other scholarship activities have included the development of a Windows based software program to design and draw the fractals associated with iterated function systems defined by affine transformations, IFS Construction Kit, available for free download, and a website about many of the classic iterated function systems.

Last modified December 2021

Mathematics Department | Agnes Scott College