Editorial: Dr. David Boyles

Math professor retires after final semester.

After teaching calculus for 29 years at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Dr. David Boyles is retiring. 

“As we speak today I taught my last lecture of Calc[ulus] 1; from here the rest is review. I’m finishing my 29th year here – 33 years teaching in total,” Boyles said. “I have taught College Algebra, Pre-Calculus, Trig[onometry] , the three semesters of Calculus, Differential Equations 1 and 2, Linear Algebra, then complex analysis and the history of math. When I taught in St. Louis, I taught a lot more than that because there was a graduate school and I taught graduate courses there.”

Boyles grew up in Aurora, Illinois, graduated from Sycamore high school in 1972 and immediately went on to earn his bachelors and master’s degree in mathematics from Northern Illinois University, where he began teaching. From there he moved to St. Louis to continue his career in education.

“The first math class I taught was in 1977, believe it or not. I’ve been doing this for half my life,” Boyles said.

When I was a sophomore I was retaking calculus, and I ended up in Boyles’ class where I learned a lot of about calculus in a new and refreshing way. He added humor to the material. However, in many math classes there is a student that asks how relatable the material is to reality.

“I will tell students that math that applies to the real world is very complicated, much more than what we’re doing,” Boyles said. “Students will say ‘who needs to know how to do this?’ and my answer is, ‘math teachers’. It’s funny, you learn how to do it, and then you come to a point like this, and you think, ‘so I can do it.’”

Boyles has taught an incredible number of students, many of whom were in the engineering program. When I was in his class, he dedicated time in lecture to make sure that students from any major and from different mathematical backgrounds could understand the material. Teaching math every semester to students from several majors can be taxing after a while.

“You come to the end and you feel like it was a marathon. I need to rest to relax a little bit. Plant my gardens and play with my grandchildren and travel,” Boyles said.

I asked Boyles if he might ever come back to teach, but he said, “Right now, absolutely not. But as they say, ‘Never say never.’ I’m tired but I’m not tired of the students”

However, even though Boyles is done teaching this semester, he is far from done with math. He is in the middle of a number of mathematical research projects and papers.

“At this point, I’m at a bit of an impasse, but I have a feeling that if I get a little more free time, I’ll be able to resolve some of the issues and send off another paper,” Boyles said.

Boyles will likely enjoy his free time in retirement, especially because he is leaving our university better than when he found it. Boyles helped developed an important assessment test for the university to help all students get into the math classes that suit their skill level in mathematics.

“We now have an assessment of basic math skills, which is something that you won’t find anywhere else. A locally developed test that we give to students in gen ed classes, and it doesn’t test what they learned in the class, it tests how much math they have – how good they are at mathematical thinking in all sorts of unusual but somewhat realistic ways,” Boyles said.

Boyles’ work for the university has definitely been an asset to the campus, and his work with students always helped them grow their skills with math and foster their knowledge of the subject.

“I think this place has a lot of potential,” Boyles concluded. 

Thank you for your work, Dr. Boyles.