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Portrait of Robert Keever

Dr. Robert Keever

Associate Professor

I did not know what I wanted to do with my life until I taught math at a secondary school (high school) in Sierra Leone, west Africa fresh out of SUNY Oneonta. I had been a dual major in both math and psychology, and until the Peace Corps, I was not sure which field to go into. I was drawn to the simple logic of mathematics and have been sharing my love for the subject ever since.

I started teaching at SUNY Plattsburgh in the fall of 1989, after receiving my Ph.D. from Edinburgh University in Scotland that summer under the supervision of Mike Eggar and De Witt Sumners (at Florida State). I studied knots, or in mathematical terms, embeddings of a circle in 3-space. This is an offshoot of a branch of mathematics called topology. At the time I started my research, new results had been found by looking at pictures of knots, 2-dimensional representations where the crossings were recorded, one strand over the other. One question I was interested in was: What is the minimal number of crossings an arbitrary knot can have or equivalently, whether a certain “picture” of the knot is minimal (meaning no picture of the knot could have fewer crossings). These are still open questions.

All math teachers know how many people feel about the subject. But like a socially inept protagonist in a quirky novel, I believe that those who do not like mathematics have not read far enough into to the book to see its charm and charisma. The best way to become familiar with math is to discover it on your own. You need to trust that it is there. For example, you notice that 7 x 5 is one less than a perfect square (6 x 6 - 1), and 9 x 11 is too, and so is 21 x 23. Maybe it is true that the product of any two numbers that differ by 2 (one number is 2 more than the other) is always a perfect square minus 1. But you have to be curious and ask the question. That is how the subject grows on you.

Summing up my personal life is fairly easy. In October of 1994 I married Lori and between 1997 and 2002 we had 3 children. I started playing hockey when my youngest was small and, apart from puzzles (crossword, sudoku, nonogram, etc.) and enjoying time with my family, hockey is my only hobby.

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