July 2004
Williams College
'Why Knot?' comic book teaches mathematical theory WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., July 8, 2004 � It's knot every day that discussion of a major mathematical theory is paired with a comic book's format and colorful cast of characters. Colin Adams, the Francis Christopher Oakley Third Century Professor of Mathematics at Williams College, achieved this unusual combination in his newly published book, "Why Knot? An Introduction to the Mathematical Theory of Knots."
Different from standard textbooks in almost every way, "Why Knot?" presents the basics of mathematical knots in a comic book. Designed to get high school and college students actively engaged, the book includes a plastic, ropelike toy called the Tangle, which students can use for exercises described in the book. Every page is filled with humorous and instructional illustrations, turning the challenging study of knot theory and the application of knot theory to DNA into an accessible adventure.
Its awardwinning author received the Mathematical Association of America Distinguished Teaching Award in 1998 and the Robert Foster Cherry Great Teaching Award in 2003, which recognized the outstanding teacher in North America in any discipline.
He is also the author of a more detailed introduction to knot theory, "The Knot Book: An Elementary Introduction to the Mathematical Theory of Knots" (1994). Adams is coauthor of "How to Ace Calculus: The Streetwise Guide" and its followup, "How to Ace the Rest of Calculus: The Streetwise Guide: Including Multivariable Calculus." These popular humorous guides to surviving calculus cover everything from how to select the best teachers to what things are likely to be on the final tests. Adams is also the humor columnist for The Mathematical Intelligencer, an expository mathematics magazine.
Adams has received numerous National Science Foundation grants to support his research on hyperbolic 3manifolds, the first of which was awarded in 1988 and the most recent in 2003.
He has been teaching at Williams since 1985. He has also taught at Oregon State University, the University of California at Santa Barbara and at Davis, and the Mathematics Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley. He received his B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Williams College is consistently ranked one of the nation's top liberal arts colleges. The college's 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their undergraduate teaching. The achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in research. Admission decisions are made regardless of a student's financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted. Founded in 1793, it is the second oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college is located in Williamstown, Mass. To visit the college on the Internet: www.williams.edu
 
