Click here to learn about
the Creation Windows.

Fr. Arnold Perham, CSV: Where Transcontinental Railroad and Mathematics Meet

March 16, 2015

Fr. Arnold Perham has spent more than 65 years in religious life and taught mathematics in all but five of Saint Viator High School’s 54-year history. But he’s not ready for full time retirement, yet.Arnie Perham

He regularly shares pedagogy with mathematics colleagues. His latest article graces the front cover of the official journal of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. It is his third article published in the periodical, in the last five years.

The publication comes out every month during the school year and is read by more than 25,000 subscribers — including math teachers at high schools and universities across the perham_0001country and around the world.

They can’t miss this latest edition. It features a vintage photo of workers laying track for the first Transcontinental Railroad, circa 1865. This July will mark 150 years since the Union Pacific Railroad started construction.

This rich history forms the backdrop for a cross-disciplinary unit that Fr. Perham and his sister, Faustine Perham, a professor emeritus from the University of Wisconsin Whitewater, wrote for their mathematics colleagues.

In it, students are challenged to test statements made by rail executives to potential railroad investors, that workers laid track at a rate of two miles per day.Fr Perham

He first developed the unit for freshmen Querbes Scholars, who plotted the data on a TI-84 calculator and an Excel spreadsheet. However, last year, Fr. Perham began incorporating data analysis using an app on the iPad, and it is that technology that he promotes in the article.

Students helped with historical research as well, finding newspaper accounts and advertisements about how fast the tracks were being laid, by searching periodicals through the Library of Congress.

“They weren’t graded; it wasn’t for any class,” Fr. Perham says. “They merely did it for the love of learning.”