Not-so-random numbers are legacy of brilliant math mind

by Kevin Malloy ‘15

Mr. Vince Benander was no ordinary math teacher. During his forty year tenure at Saint Ignatius High School from 1968-2008, he came up with several clever ways to get his students excited about going to math class. In the 1987-1988 school year, Mr. Benander had the idea to map out his entire classroom, room 212, on a three-dimensional coordinate plane.

The project began by students plotting points within room 212, using yards as the unit of measure. As time went on, some students began carefully measuring and plotting points in other areas of the math wing. When other teachers found out about the project, they started requesting to have points made in their rooms. Years later, these coordinate points could be found scattered around not only the main building, but the entire campus. “There is even used to be a point on the roof of the power building,” added Mr. Johnson, one of the few people remaining at Ignatius who know the full story.

While it is unclear exactly how many points still exist around school grounds, each one contains a unique story. Mr. Hennessey, for example, specifically requested to have a point made in his office when he was the Dean of Students. Mr. Ward’s physics room had its point made by Mr. Ward’s son when he was a senior in 2005.

Mr. Benander’s math room acquired the nickname of “The Math Factory” because of projects like his three dimensional coordinate plane. “He was also known for having hundreds of digits of pi stretching across the walls of his room. In addition, he created, along with his brother, the board game Zenn,” commented Mr. Johnson. The Zenn board, still sold nationally today, allows for 101 different strategy games. Mr. Benander, sticking to his math roots, named the game after the German number for ten, “zehn.”

Mr. Benander may no longer be at Saint Ignatius, but his legacy remains. From a Zenn board on Class Competition Day to a series of three numbers hanging from a wall, Mr. Benander has had a permanent impact on St. Ignatius.