MAV Life member, Ken Evans. OAM turns 90!

Ken Evans OAMThursday 10 September 2020

"It’s not often that we can celebrate a 90th birthday from one of our distinguished life members", Max Stephens says. "Ken made huge contributions to mathematics education during a period of curriculum change in mathematics syllabuses and teaching in Victoria starting in the 1960s. Always generous with his time and a consistent friend of the MAV, Ken contributed to conferences, through his membership of committees, and through his books to supporting young teachers in dealing with new topics and new approaches to teaching all through his career. On one occasion when one of the early orbital satellites was launched, The Age newspaper featured Ken in class showing his senior students how a satellite could remain in orbit under its own circular motion. We wish him continued good health and enjoyment during his retirement years. We are all indebted to his leadership. Never one to promote himself, Ken continues to be regarded with great affection. Special thanks to Michael Evans in preparing this short summation of Ken’s career.”

Kenneth McRobert Evans OAM ninetieth birthday

Kenneth McRobert Evans was born in 1930. He graduated BA (Hons) from Melbourne University in 1952. On leaving the university he taught at Melbourne High School for three years and also at Northcote High School. Ken joined the Scotch College staff in 1961 as Senior Mathematics Master. In 1967 he was appointed Head of Mathematics at Scotch College, a position he retained until 1987. He was in charge of the mathematics department at the school for 28 years and built it into one of the strongest school mathematics department in the country. His quietly spoken manner and his knowledge of the subject ensured that he had the respect of both his staff and students. His students included several who became mathematicians. He had an outstanding career as a teacher and leader. He had many publications including several textbooks including joining RG Rowlands as a joint author of the widely used Leaving Mathematics books 1 and 2.

With the assistance of Melbourne and Monash Universities, and a Commonwealth government grant, he had a computer installed at Scotch to enable the beginning of an integration of computing into the mathematics courses of the school. His leadership in the state in this area was remarkable. Jointly with Robert Money he published a book in 1971 on computing for schools and this book indicates the level that algorithmic thinking was valued in the late 1960s. His initiatives in this area lasted for many years after his retirement. Ken also published a book with the MAV on dynamic geometry a forerunner of the possibilities with the geometry packages which were to follow.

In the late 1950s Ken was appointed to the Mathematics Standing Committee of Melbourne University’s Schools’ Board. He remained a member of it as it became the Standing Committee of the Victorian Universities and Schools Examination Board (VUSEB), later the Mathematics Standing Committee of the Victorian Institute of Secondary Education (VISE), and then the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA). Ken was Deputy Chairman of the VUSEB mathematics standing committee and later he chaired the VISE Mathematics Subject Committee. This involvement was in a period that saw major curriculum changes in the state and Ken was at the forefront of these. This included the major changes which took place in the senior mathematics curriculum in the early 1970s.

In 1965 the MAV establish a committee to consider the changes in the curriculum in areas which were already receiving attention in the USA and Europe. Ken was part of this and as a result of this committee the School Mathematics Research Foundation was established. He was appointed the inaugural secretary of this foundation, secretary of its executive committee, and was an author of books written by it, with proceeds supporting the Foundation. These books were hugely influential in the Victorian mathematics curriculum. Of course, the ideas of the new curriculum were embraced at Scotch College and they continue to influence the curriculum of that school to this day.

In 1967 Ken took a year of leave as a lecturer in the Mathematics Department at Monash University. It made him an honorary member of the department. Ken was a foundation joint editor of the Monash University mathematics journal, Function, written for secondary students – a position he still held when he retired from Scotch in 1990. Ken also wrote several articles in the magazine.

In 1961 Ken introduced the Thursday Social Services program to Scotch, and ran it until the 1970s. For over 30 years he helped at – and ran – Hilltops holiday home for the Victorian Society for Crippled Children and Adults, which later merged to become the Yooralla Society of Victoria.

Ken was made a Life Member of the Mathematical Association of Victoria in 1988 and on the Queen’s Birthday in 1995 Ken was awarded an OAM ‘For service to mathematics education and to the community’.