William S. Mahavier


A Small Tribute to Bill Mahavier

About ten years ago I had the extraordinary experience of being able to observe Bill Mahavier teach two classes using the Moore Method. That experience changed my life, for the better. He gave me the courage to try teaching in a way that I now use routinely, gave me a model for how to make it work, and above all provided me with the enduring inspiration that has sustained me over the years. I have had many teachers throughout my rather long education, but none quite like Bill.

Bill was exceptional at what he did. His passion for teaching and for mathematics has inspired not just me, but countless of his students and both of his children to teach mathematics in ways inspired by him.

What drove his passion? I believe that he felt his own life had been changed by another great teacher, R.L. Moore, and he wanted to pass on that good fortune.

What made him stand out among other Moore Method teachers? I think he understood very clearly that using the Moore Method did not mean that one should do what R. L. Moore did, but that one had to understand why and how what Moore did worked. A strict copy of Moore’s approach was unlikely to have succeeded in the classes that I observed. Bill found something that did – a kinder, gentler Moore Method, if you will. But like Moore, he cared very deeply about his students. To him, all students had enormous potential and he wanted to help them make the most of it. His joy when they succeeded and his distress when they did not were so apparent that they served as a motivator more powerful than any others. You wanted to please this man and dared not disappoint him.

Bill was a teacher and mentor for all the right reasons. You never got the feeling that he cared for recognition or praise. He seemed to be motivated by the sheer joy of seeing students grow before his eyes. That for him was enough.

I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet Bill Mahavier and to observe him do what he did best, change the lives of students. He kindled in me a desire to emulate at least some of what made him such a successful teacher – not to be like Bill Mahavier, if that were even possible, but at least to feel that I could have a small part in transforming my own students. For that I am most thankful.

Cornelius Stallmann

Return to Mahavier Remembrances Page

Latest revision: 29 April 2011