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Outstanding Faculty Awards

Laura Taalman

Professor of Mathematics
James Madison University

Laura Taalman is a Full Professor of Mathematics at James Madison University, where she started work in 2000 after completing a Ph.D. in mathematics at Duke University and an undergraduate mathematics degree at the University of Chicago.

Dr. Taalman’s mathematical outreach is centered around helping students understand and appreciate mathematics both at the introductory and research levels. She has delivered over 40 addresses around the country on open mathematical research questions about Sudoku, has given lectures and short courses to middle and high school students, is one of the Directors of the annual Shenandoah Undergraduate Mathematics and Statistics (SUMS) Conference, and has mentored 15 undergraduate students in mathematical research projects and papers about knot theory.

Her published work includes research articles in singular algebraic geometry, knot theory, and the mathematics of games and puzzles with 19 different faculty and student collaborators. She is also the author of the book Taking Sudoku Seriously (with Jason Rosenhouse, Oxford University Press), four Sudoku puzzle books (with Phil Riley, Sterling/PuzzleWright Press), a textbook combining Calculus, Precalculus, and Algebra into one course (W.H. Freeman), and a three-semester Calculus textbook for math, science, and engineering majors (with Peter Kohn, W.H. Freeman).

Dr. Taalman has served the regional and national mathematical community through the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) in many contexts over the past 12 years: as a Project NExT Fellow, Mentor, Consultant, and workshop presenter; with MAA publications as the Puzzles Editor of FOCUS, a member of the Math Horizons Editorial Board, and a former Media Highlights Columnist with the College Mathematics Journal; through serving on the Allendoerfer Award Committee, Trevor Evans Award Committee, and Carriage House Advisory Board; and as Program Chair of the MD/DC/VA section of the MAA. She is also a recipient of the Alder Award and the Trevor Evans Award from the Mathematical Association of America.

Dr. Taalman lives in Harrisonburg with her husband Philip Riley and their eight-year-old son Calvin. In her spare time she enjoys traveling, cooking, knitting, Minecraft, and being as geeky as possible.

View Nomination Packet

Laura Taalman


"When I first told colleagues that I wanted to develop a course to teach rigorous calculus to STEM majors with extremely weak precalculus and algebra backgrounds, the most common reaction was that what I wanted to do was impossible… A wiser person would probably have heeded the advice of colleagues and mentors. Luckily, I am not a wise person. I am a stubborn person."