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Dr. Jim Johnson

It’s not about math, Dr. Jim Johnson insists.

No matter that he has unlocked the mysteries of matrices and linear equations at Doane for two decades—math, he says, is just the venue, the means to teach and help shape young lives.

Still, one can’t take the math out of a professor of mathematics. Who else would calculate the amount of candy served from their candy dispenser?

(Answer: 100 pounds of M&Ms per year)

Who else keeps shelves of mind-boggling math puzzles?

Johnson also insists that not much about him would surprise his students.

They know he’s demanding, but humorous and fair.

He hopes they know how desperately he wants them to realize their potential; how he wishes he could shield them from mistakes that steal that potential.

"But basically, I’m kind of a what-you-see-is-what-you-get person,” he says, an affable creature of habit.

Then he thinks twice.

"Well, my hobbies might surprise them.” He hasn’t earned nicknames like “poker nut” and “kite guy” for nothing.

Johnson has amassed about 500 poker games, compiled a library of books on the game, and wrote his own—possibly the world’s largest—containing about 800 varieties of poker. He has organized 20 years of Friday poker nights since coming to Doane, also affectionately called “probability seminars.” But it’s strictly social to him, a card game of pennies, nickels, and dimes.

His kite hobby takes up slightly less space. It began in high school when he made kites from dry cleaning bags. Johnson often can be found on the open fields of campus, with one or more of his 50 kites in the air.

Is any of this about math?

Is it coincidence that his favorite kite shapes are geometric?

That good poker players think like mathematicians?

Okay—maybe it is about the math.

An inspiring mentor

Dr. Johnson is a good example of the kind of innovative professors you will find leading your classroom discussions at Doane: teachers whose passion for their fields are reflected in every aspect of their lives and scholars who are as passionate about teaching as they are about their own research.

After 20 years of introducing Doane students to the intricacies of matrices, linear equations, and an assortment of other complex mathematical concepts, Dr. Johnson still believes his job is not about teaching math as much as it is about helping his students realize their potential.

With mentors like him to inspire them, it’s hardly surprising that so many of our math graduates pursue higher studies in fields such as mathematics, education, engineering, and statistics at some of the nation’s most prestigious graduate and professional schools. Or that for more than 30 years, every single Doane math education graduate interested in teaching has received a job offer!

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