2016 Silver Circle winner Evangelos Kobotis
Since 1966, the Silver Circle Award has been presented to some of UIC’s best teachers. Winners, who are honored at their college commencements, receive $500 and their names join a long list of distinguished colleagues. But what makes the award especially meaningful is its selection committee: the graduating seniors.
You might say Evangelos Kobotis wants his students to do more than just do the math.
“I regard mathematics as the science — or better yet, the art — of reason. And reason is what defines us as a species,” said Kobotis, a lecturer in mathematics who teaches three courses in calculus.
Mathematicians, he says, are interested in “themes in numbers and geometry that create questions that fascinate the human mind.”
“Even though much of what I teach in my courses are applications, I try to impart the ideas and beauty of reason,” he said.
A native of Kalamata, Greece, Kobotis earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Athens before coming for graduate work at the University of Chicago.
He came to UIC in 2005 and received his first Silver Circle Award in 2011.
Since his earlier award, he created a new course for the Honors College called Mathematics Through Time.
“It’s sort of a history course, but it has a great deal of math,” he said.
Every time he teaches it, the course is different.
“This time, we considered the famous result of prime number theory,” Kobotis said. The prime number theorem confirms the intuitive idea that prime numbers become less common as numbers become larger by quantifying the rate at which this occurs.
“It took mathematicians almost a hundred years to prove,” Kobotis said. “The students are exposed to the history behind the result, and the rigorous proof that was given in the 20th century.”
The course is taken by many non-math-majors, he said. “They appreciate the challenge. I’ve seen some spectacular presentations.”
Kobotis said his “most exciting” course this semester is Calculus for Life Sciences.
“The students do very well,” he said. “I believe in giving them thorough explanations and in-class work with real examples.
“I try to get them as involved as possible in class and make it as active as possible.”