Mary P. Dolciani Halloran (1923-1985) was a gifted mathematician, educator, and author. She devoted her life to developing excellence in mathematics education through her own teaching, mentoring, and writing. A leading author in the field of mathematical textbooks at the college and secondary school levels, she published under her professional name Dr. Mary P. Dolciani. At a time when it was uncommon for women to enter the field of mathematics, Dr. Dolciani advanced and excelled.
"She had enthusiasm for her discipline of mathematics, for teaching, for writing, for research, and for life - an enthusiasm that was evident when she spoke and that jumped off every page of her textbooks..."
-- Dr. Eileen Poiani, St. Peter's College
Mary Patricia Dolciani Halloran was much more than an accomplished mathematician and author. She was a warm and caring person, a devoted daughter, loving wife, and cherished friend. Her legacy will be continued through all those she touched and future generations of mathematicians.
Mary P. Dolciani was special - not only for her singular mathematical accomplishments, but also for belonging to a small, select group of women in mathematics. Mary's mother and father were committed to encouraging their daughter to advance and achieve in mathematics even though few women pursued this field. Her love of mathematics was evident in high school and was her major area of study at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
She was voted one of the two "most studious", "most reliable," and "the Ideal Cathedral Girl" in a 1941 class poll at Cathedral High School in New York as reported in The Arbutus, a school publication.
Dr. Dolciani received her Bachelor of Arts from Hunter College, City University of New York, and her Master of Arts and Doctorate from Cornell University where she was an Erastus Brooks Fellow and an Olmstead Fellow. She was a post-doctoral member of the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton and a Research Associate at the University of London. She worked for the United States government on classified projects at Fort Monmouth during World War II.
Her Master's Thesis was "The Semi-Orthogonal Reduction of Matrices in K (p)", and her Ph.D. dissertation was "On the Representation of Integers by Quadratic Form."
A Legacy of Teaching
Despite her extraordinary achievements as a scholar and writer, Mary P. Dolciani was most at home in the classroom. She was a beloved teacher of undergraduate college students as well as a teacher of teachers.
"Mary Dolciani was a powerful exemplar in mathematics education. She clearly could have gone on to a successful career as a research mathematician, but her great success as a teacher did not leave much room for research. She chose to work primarily with students, especially those entering mathematics teaching."
-- Dr. Donald Albers, Publications Director, Mathematical Association of America
Dr. Dolciani was known as a "Master Teacher". She taught at Vassar College for seven years and in 1955, joined the faculty at her alma mater, Hunter College, City University of New York, where she taught for over thirty years. During that time she also served as Chair of the Department of Mathematics and as Provost. She was Dean for Academic Development at The City University of New York. She developed the first multi-media mathematics learning laboratory in the City University system, directed National Science Foundation Institutes, served on the U.S. Commission on Mathematical Instruction, and was a member of the Board of Governors of the Mathematical Association of America.
“I always remember Professor Dolciani’s open door policy from very early in the morning till later in the day so that anyone who had questions in their study of mathematics could be assisted. Her enthusiasm for mathematics, her love of life and her concern for her students serve as a constant inspiration. "
-- Barbara Barone, Director, Dolciani Mathematics Learning Center
An Illustrious Career
Dr. Dolciani wrote high school mathematics textbooks that have been translated into several languages. Her books were published by Houghton Mifflin Company, New York and have sold more than 50 million copies around the world. Some are still in publication today. Mathematics students across the USA and in dozens of countries recognize the name Dolciani immediately.
"In the 6thgrade I was introduced to a small black pre-Algebra textbook that my teacher called 'The Dolciani text'. I’ve forgotten the teacher’s name, but the image of the book is clear in my mind. Mary P. Dolciani is a name that is forever etched in my brain ... a textbook author that was the first step in a journey of a love of math and science, that prompted me to pursue a passion in math, science, and analytics ... She was truly an inspiration to me and I wish I could have met her."
-- Allen Crane, Executive Director, USAA Research and Analytics
Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the New York State Education Department, she directed institutes for high school mathematics teachers. Dr. Dolciani also took the lead in developing new curricula for secondary school mathematics with the School Mathematics Study Group, funded by the NSF.
She established the Dolciani Mathematical Exposition - a book series now numbering 25 volumes - and the Visiting Lecturer Program for Secondary Schools.
A Legacy of Giving
Dr. Dolciani is remembered today for her impact on millions of students and the professional mathematics community through her teaching, textbooks, the Dolciani Mathematical Expositions, publications of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), and programs supported by the Mary P. Dolciani Halloran Foundation.
In her memory, the Houghton Mifflin Company made a gift to the Mathematics Education Trust of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, establishing a fund that provides grants to high school teachers to improve the quality of their teaching.
The Dolciani Mathematical Center, the headquarters for the Mathematical Association of America in Washington DC, furthers her ideal of excellence in mathematics.
The Dolciani Mathematics Learning Center at Hunter College, City University of New York continues to provide mathematics and statistics support for students and the adjacent Dolciani Library has journals and periodicals as well as books written by Dr. Dolciani and other prominent mathematicians for reference.
In 1982, Dr. Dolciani established The Mary P. Dolciani Halloran Foundation. The Foundation honors Dr. Dolciani's desire "to benefit the greatest number of people in the advancement of mathematics or mathematics education."
"As everyone who knew Mary Patricia Dolciani would agree, Mary at all times was filled with an infectious enthusiasm, whether about research, the learning, teaching or writing of mathematics, or life in general. One was simply happy and optimistic when in her presence."
-- Ada Peluso, Professor Emerita, Professor Hunter College