Top row, left to right
  • Steven Hiller
  • George Barany
Middle row
  • Walter Blumenfeld
  • John Aach
  • Alan Kornstein
  • Benjamin Chu
  • Robert Rosen
Bottom row
  • David Harbater
  • Mr. Schwartz, our coach
  • Arthur Rothstein

Stuyvesant Math Team, Spring 1970

Math Team? Is that like fencing, but with pencils?

The Math Team, vintage 1967-1970, was like a basketball team. There were lots of guys on the team, but only five on the court at any time. Unlike basketball, injuries and fatigue were rare. Substitutions occurred only because of wrong answers.

There were several meets each semester. Two or three teams would meet at one school on a Friday afternoon. All players, even those on the bench, worked the same problems. Each player worked alone, with a time limit for each problem. The only scores that counted were those of the five designated players. Substitutions were allowed between problems. Scores were tallied and citywide rankings were kept. In Fall of 1969 and Spring of 1970, if memory serves, we creamed Bronx Science.

In addition to the citywide meets, there was one national contest. We called it the MAA exam, after one of its four sponsors, but its real name was the Annual High School Mathematics Exam (AHSME). Nowadays there are two more national contests, both invitation-only, and an international one too. Stuyvesant students often do well in these. Indeed, most of our information about Math Team members after 1975 comes from the widely publicized results of the USA and International Mathematical Olympiads. Kiran Kedlaya, an NSF postdoc in Berkeley's math department, sadly not a Stuyvesant alumnus, maintains a Web page on various math contests, including problems and solutions for the last several years.

The ideal team structure was one captain, three seniors, one junior, and a healthy supply of alternates. The captain was the guy (or, since the early 1970s, girl) who knew the most. He led the morning practice sessions, which took place daily (except Friday?) during zero period in room 510. The captain might order substitutions during meets when a starter found himself a couple of quarts low. More often, the starters would change only between meets, based on performance at the prior meet. The junior member became the captain the next year.

Some years there wasn't a clear favorite for captain. In 1968-69 we had two co-captains, Gary Gottlieb and Harley Kaufman. They were constantly at each other's throat. In 1969-70 we had three, Julius Collins, Harbater and Rothstein.

Missing from the group picture are Collins and Jay Banks. Collins was our top scorer. Jay was a junior who gave our other junior member, George Barany, a run for his money.

Where are they now?

Only one of us stayed in the math business. He is David Harbater, now an algebraist at the University of Pennsylvania. David shared the 1995 Cole Prize of the American Mathematical Society, an award granted every five years. There are actually two Cole Prizes, one for algebra and one for number theory, each awarded every five years. The algebra prize is awarded in years evenly divisible by five; the number theory prize two years hence.

Rothstein is a software developer in San Francisco.

Walter Blumenfeld is a cytopathologist by day, a painter by night.

John Aach sequences genes in the George M. Church Lab at Harvard Medical School. He has been wandering in the Boston area for several years.

Alan Kornstein is a lawyer in New Jersey.

Ben Chu is President of Kaiser Permanente's Southern California Region. He previously held various government positions, including President of New York City's Health and Hospitals Corporation; and academic positions at Columbia and NYU.

Robert Rosen is a professor at the law school of the University of Miami.

Steve Hiller is a lawyer with a solo practice and various other business pursuits in the Gramercy Park section of Manhattan. One of those pursuits several years ago was the Lord Byron Computer Center.

George Barany liked the basketball metaphor so much that he emulated Moses Malone and skipped college. After graduating Stuyvesant in 1971 he entered Rockefeller University, where he worked in the lab of future chemistry Nobelist Bruce Merrifield. George is now a chemistry professor at the University of Minnesota. His official title is Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Chemistry, Laboratory Medicine and Pathology. George's younger brother Francis was on the team a few years later.

Julius Collins is a computer programmer for AT&T Sales and Marketing Information Systems in Holmdel, New Jersey.

Jay Banks is an Associate Research Scientist in computational chemistry at Columbia.

What about other years?

Until July 2005 our earliest report of a Math Team came from Bernard Gelbaum, whose first semester on the team was Fall 1937. He has since been trumped by January 1926 graduate Oscar Merber, whose letter on page 6 of the Spring/Summer Alumni Spectator reports he was captain of what was then called the Algebra Team.

William Pepper reports that in 1940 and 1941 the team participated in what was then known as the Interscholastic Algebra League. Practices were after school, and only once a week (what slackers!). Late screenwriter I. A. L. Diamond used to joke that's what his initials stood for. Some Web sites report that Mr. Diamond competed in the League in 1936, while living in Brooklyn.

More information about some of the members listed here may be found on a page maintained by the Stuyvesant Alumni Association, and on another maintained by Stuyvesant alumnus Chris Hillman.

The alumni who assisted us in compiling this list are too numerous to mention. We must, however, single out the contribution of Zachary Franco, who has been collecting similar information for several years and freely shared his files with us.

We draw the line at 1987, hoping someone else can continue from there. A glance at the 1993 team suggests how much work may be involved in covering recent years. We may attempt to bound the problem by restricting attention to competing members of the senior teams.

In the meantime we make one exception.

Mathematicians who weren't on the team

Not all future mathematicians were on the Math Team. At least one didn't even become interested in math until after graduation.

Team pictures

Fall 1939 | Spring 1940 | Fall 1940 | Spring 1941 | Spring 1942 | Fall 1944
Fall 1946 | Fall 1948 | Spring 1952 | Spring 1953 | Spring 1956
Spring 1957 | Spring 1959 | Spring 1960 | Spring 1963 | Spring 1965
Spring 1966 | Spring 1967 | Spring 1968 | Spring 1969 | Spring 1974
Spring 1977 | Spring 1978 | Spring 1980 | Spring 1983 | Spring 1991
Spring 1993 | Spring 1996 | Spring 1997

Special treat

The complete Fall 1948 Math Survey

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