You are in the library. Everything is quiet. The faint ruffle of
pages floats through the room. Suddenly, Orthodox Jewish wedding
music blares from a nearby laptop. Forgetting to check their
volume level, somebody went to Professor Levine's personal web
page. The signature background music, instantly recognized by
all, inadvertently announces that someone intends to do their
math homework. As knowing smiles are passed around the room,
students get back to their studies, but not before wishing they
were still in one of Prof. Levine's classes. Professor Lawrence
Elliott Levine keeps learning interesting. When giving a
lecture, he stays acutely aware of whether he's losing the
attention of his students and reacts accordingly. If interest is
slipping, he might tell a story or go off on a tangent to grab
their attention but come back and slip a math problem in at the
end before people could zone back out. "I'm trying to get a
contract to sell my lectures to Sleep-Aid," joked Levine. "I try
to liven up my classes." The same reasoning applies to the music
on his website. Considering that his page is used to help study
and to distribute homework, if students laugh or smile when they
visit the page, they will associate happiness with math. To
Levine, it's not all fun and games though. "Education is the
only business where the consumer wants to be cheated," says
Levine. "If I were selling gas and a student gave me $20 and I gave him $18 worth of gas, he would say 'where's my other $2?' Now if I were to say, " You don't have to study such and such material or if I ended class early, I'm a hero." This is why he does what he does to spice up his classes. Making the student's want to learn makes teaching much easier.
Just to be clear, Professor Levine has experience keeping it interesting. A Stevens employee from 1968 to the present, Levine is one of the longest contributing members of the Stevens community. "I've been here long enough that I've taught the children of my former students." While currently employed in an adjunct capacity, he has held many positions before now. "Over the years I've taught almost all the undergraduate [mathematics] courses," said Levine. From 1991 to 1996 he was head of the Department of Mathematical Sciences. In 2000 and 2001, he spent a year as a visiting professor at West Point Academy. "Being at West Point introduced me to a world I had no knowledge of…It was an educational experience for me as well as the cadets."
At Stevens, he was a key figure in the introduction of individual student laptops in the education process. Professor Levine was one of the first educators to use slide shows accompanied by pre-recorded audio to help teach math. Today, it would seem like what he was doing was just basic PowerPoint, but he was way ahead of his time. The success of digitally available notes and problems eventually led to a laptop being a required tool at Stevens.
A graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and University of Maryland, his choice to become a professor of mathematics was not surprising. "[In college] I had an interest in mathematics, and more importantly I was good at it," he said. "I enjoy interacting with people. I enjoy teaching."
A professor is not all he is however. Larry (Yitzchok). Levine is a practicing Orthodox Jew. "Being an Orthodox Jew has big implications on your lifestyle," explained Levine. He attends synagogue every day and, almost to contrast his advocacy of technology, observes the Orthodox Jewish Sabbath every week. He is also very interested in American Jewish history, and writes a monthly column called "Glimpses into American Jewish History" that appears in the Jewish Press newspaper.
"I've met many Stevens students over the years and had a marvelous experience with almost all of them," reminisces Levine. Professor Levine has been an asset to the Stevens community for many years, and will continue to be one for many years to come.