Teri Perl

Co-founder, The Learning Company
Palo Alto, California

Teri Perl received her Ph.D. in mathematics education from Stanford University in 1979 after her four children were in high school or beyond. Her two books, "Math Equals" (1978) and "Women & Numbers" (1993), are biographies of women working in math-related fields; the books also include math activities. "Math Equals," designed for high school students, was cited by the American Library Association's "Choice" magazine in 1992 for its outstanding contribution to mathematics.

Teri came to computers through mathematics: "I was never a great math student, but for some reason I always believed that math was one of the most fascinating inventions of the human mind. I'd get a glimpse of what math was about from the occasional teacher who'd share a fascinating puzzle or help us discover some kind of magical number pattern like the Fibonnaci sequence. It is marvelous how this series of numbers appears over and over in nature, like in the spirals of a sunflower or the breeding patterns of rabbits.

"I'd been interested for some time in computers as a way to reveal exciting mathematics for more young people. In the early 1980s, computer games and personal computers were just coming on the market, making them much more accessible." A friend recommended Teri to a young woman who was to be awarded a National Science Foundation grant to develop software for teaching logic and geometry to gifted second and third grade students. Together they formed The Learning Company, which is now a highly successful educational software company. Teri was the lead designer of several of their early programs, including "Gertrude's Secrets," "Gertrude's Puzzles," and "Math Rabbit."

According to Teri, since then "life has been kind of a roller coaster. The technology is moving along at a breathtaking clip. New technology communication tools are making it possible for people, young and old, to share ideas, experiments, and activities over long as well as short distances."

In one of her current projects, Teri and a Rutgers University math education group are using multimedia to develop a tool to help teachers understand how kids build mathematical ideas. This involves using new software tools that display videoclips of kids in classrooms grappling with ideas as they learn mathematics. At the same time, students can access comments by teachers and researchers about what's taking place just by pressing an on-screen "button." She also continues to publish articles, give workshops on the use of technology in schools, consults, and develops computer-related software such as "MetroGnomes' Music" through her own company, Teri Perl Associates.

Teri's life outside of work has been busy, too: "It's been great watching my four children grow up, marry, and start families. And imagine what fun I have communicating with my 12-year-old-grandson via e-mail. I'm his cool computer-literate grandma!"