Professor Spotlight: Dr. George E. Schnibben Jr “Math Professor Subtracts Misconceptions”


Math professor George Schnibben uses a slipstick while sitting in his office. Prior to the invention of pocket calculators, slipsticks were relied upon to preform quick calculations

Joshua Lloyd, Staff Writer

Dr. George Schnibben, professor of mathematics, has a personal philosophy which is that math is a natural component of human life and, when applied properly, is a truly unrecognized art form.

After earning both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Francis Marion College, Schnibben went on to complete his PhD in mathematics at Clemson University.   While in the final stages of earning his doctorate, Schnibben was offered a teaching position at Francis Marion and plans to continue his career here for as long as possible.

He first came to Francis Marion as a student as soon as he finished high school, and before it was even a university. He studied business administration originally, but found that particular field to be more daunting than educational.

Along with his various educational degrees, family photos and Star Trek’s Enterprise Battleship design plans, the walls of his office hold a framed letter of dismissal from Francis Marion College for poor grades.

“I think I may be the only professor that’s ever been dismissed from Francis Marion,” Schnibben said. “I like to show it to all of my classes.”

It wasn’t until after his dismissal from the college that he began to use mathematics practically and find a true appreciation for it.

“When I came back, I had become interested in mathematics and decided that liked it. I did remember some of it, and it all made logical sense,” Schnibben said. “I did very, very well when I came back; I actually stayed on the dean’s list.”

With a primary interest and fascination in the history of mathematics, Dr. Schnibben enjoys drawing on problems from the past and applying it to the present.

“In history, you find that every civilization had people that did mathematics and they did it because they wanted to,” Schnibben said. “To me mathematics is a normal, human thing to do.”

Schnibben explained that many students have been under pressure to complete math for grades for most of their lives and in return, they hate it.  However, when the pressure is off, you can find practical uses for math and it becomes a tool that you not only want to use, but also one you can actually enjoy.

“I like being able to take mathematics and find out something useful from it, and that’s exactly how I teach my courses.” Schnibben said.

He wants students to understand that math does not have always be considered difficult and that it has practical uses that apply to real life situations.

“Math is what it is,” Schnibben said. “We’re not developing it so that it’s something new, we’re taking what it is and presenting it to them (the students) as it is.”

He teaches math in a way that allows students to view math as more than just a hard subject to pass; he shows them the true practicality of the study.

“If you don’t know that the Civil war was over with in 1865 there’s no way you’re going to reason that out on a test,” Schnibben said. “But with math, if you don’t know the answer to something, you can always figure it out logically.”

Schnibben also pointed out that many students view math as rather dull but in reality a world without math would actually be boring. It is engrained in every part of our lives, from the cars that we drive to the shows that we watch.

Mathematics literally runs within the Schnibben family.  He has a son attending graduate school for mathematics and a granddaughter who was born on March 14 of this year.  In other words, she was born on Pi Day which Schnibben said brings him “infinite joy.”