Math Professor John Rickert Honored for Encouraging Young Problem Solvers

Thursday, June 23, 2016
RHIT John Rickert

Adding Things Up: John Rickert, associate professor of mathematics, spends most of his summer mentoring high school students in the American Regions Math League competition and Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Research Summer Institute.

At 6-foot-6, John Rickert easily stands out in a crowd. However, it is his passion for mentoring the nation's future problem solvers that has earned the veteran Rose-Hulman mathematics professor admiration among his higher education peers as well as adoration from high school and college math students and teachers throughout the country.

Rickert recently received the Samuel Greitzer Distinguished Coach Award for his longtime mentorship of Indiana's high school team in the annual American Regions Math League competition at the University of Iowa. With the exception of two sabbatical years (1998 and 2005), he has coached the state's best young mathematicians since 1994, and helped the team achieve two top-10 finishes and several top individual finishes, including fourth place this year for Carmel High School freshman Kevin Liu.

"I enjoy working with the students. It gives them a chance to stretch mathematically and to meet other talented students," says Rickert, who recruits students for the team, writes practice questions, organizes practices, and escorts the team to Iowa.

His involvement with students also includes coordinating Rose-Hulman's popular high school mathematics competition (for 25 years) and organizing the institute's Alfred R. Schmidt Freshman Mathematics Competition. He also serves as chief judge for the Society of Professional Engineers' local and state MATHCOUNTS events on campus.

Now, Rickert's commitment to helping young scholars has him tutoring some of the world's most accomplished high school science and math students at the Research Summer Institute, conducted each summer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This is his 20th year being associated with the program.

"It's a lot of fun to work with talented motivated students and to help them learn how to do and present research. It's also fascinating to follow their subsequent careers," Rickert remarks.

As a tutor, Rickert helps 15 to 19 students throughout the process of reading the most current literature in their chosen scientific field, drafting and executing a detailed research plan, and delivering conference-style oral and written reports on their findings.

At Rose-Hulman, Rickert specializes in teaching classes in calculus, number theory, and discrete and combinatorial algebra. He brought his interest in baseball statistical research into creating a course examining the mathematics and the physics of baseball, and provided mathematical calculations to help architects design the retractable roof for the Seattle Mariners' Safeco Field - determining if a batted ball could hit the ceiling or possibly fly out of the stadium. (Rickert is a member of the Society of American Baseball Research.) His scholarly research pursuits have covered topics on simultaneous linear approximations, norm form Diophantine equations, and partition functions.