Joe Rosenstein

About Joe Rosenstein

Biographical Notes

Joseph G. Rosenstein is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Rutgers University who retired in 2017 after 48 years of teaching at Rutgers and 3 years at the University of Minnesota. 

Joe was born in London UK on February 8, 1941 at the beginning of the Blitz bombing by the Nazis.  His parents had miraculously escaped from Danzig (now Gdansk) just days before Hitler invaded Poland and rounded up the Poles living in Danzig into the first concentration camps.  He spent his first months living in a suitcase in the London Underground. Joe came to the United States with his parents and his sister Karen (now Karen Alkalay-Gut) in 1948 and lived in Rochester, New York, where he graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School in 1957.  He received his A.B. degree from Columbia College in 1961 and his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1966.  Before coming to Rutgers, he taught at the University of Minnesota for three years.

Joe had a brief chess-playing career, as a teenager getting a draw in a simultaneous exhibition with US Champion Samuel Reshevsky, and subsequently winning the New York State Amateur Championship and serving as Captain of Columbia’s winning team in the U.S. Intercollegiate Championship in 1960. 

As a graduate student in 1965, Joe became an early participant in demonstrations against the war in Vietnam, protesting the destruction of both Vietnamese civilians and American soldiers in a misguided attempt to achieve flawed political goals.

During those years, as a way of grounding himself in troubled times, Joe began to study Jewish texts regularly with a number of partners, building on the Jewish background that was established as a youngster and that was strengthened by attending classes at the Jewish Theological Seminary while a student at Columbia.  He maintained chevruta partners, studying and discussing Jewish texts, throughout his adult life.  In New Jersey he taught courses on Judaism for many years at the Highland Park Conservative Temple and other synagogues.

He was a founder of the Highland Park Minyan, still going strong after 50 years, and subsequently was a founder and chair of the National Havurah Committee and its summer Institute, still going strong after almost 40 years.  He taught many courses on Judaism, and led many guided meditations on Jewish prayer, at the Highland Park Minyan and at the NHC’s institute and weekend retreats.  

These activities all led to the publication of Jewish prayerbooks – Siddur Eit Ratzon (in 2004) and Machzor Eit Ratzon (in 2010) – and subsequently to Memorable Verses in the Torah (in 2017) and Reflections on Pirkei Avot:  Not Just What My Rebbe Taught Me (in 2022).

Joe Rosenstein
Joe Rosenstein teaching as a Scholar-in-Residence at the First Hebrew Congregation of Peekskill NY in November 2019
Joe Rosenstein teaching as a Scholar-in-Residence
at the First Hebrew Congregation of Peekskill NY in November 2019
The Rosenstein Family November 2021
The Rosenstein Family -- November 2021


Joe married Judith Eileen Gordon on January 19,1969.  Joe and Judy have five daughters (Mira, Ariela, Dalia, Neshama, and Nessa), and twelve grandchildren, the oldest of whom was born in April 2002 and the youngest in March 2019.


  • Mira and her husband Psachya Septimus are proud parents of two sons, Aryeh Leib and Mordechai (Motty) and one daughter, Devorah Gitel;
  • Ariela and her husband Marc Cohen are proud parents of two sons, Amar Metta Medwin and Kayel Steven;
  • Dalia and her husband Ozgur Gokirmak are proud parents of a two sons and a daughter, Eytan Atesh and twins Eliana Malka and Samuel Serkan;
  • Neshama and her husband Dan Marcus are proud parents of a daughter and a son, Lauren Tirzeh and Jonathan Shai; and
  • Nessa and her husband Joel Madison are proud parents of a son and a daughter, Isaiah Ashoka and Jean Amalia.

Mathematical Career

In the research portion of his career, Joe wrote a number of articles on mathematical logic and on what would now be called theoretical computer science, and published a research monograph, Linear Orderings (Academic Press, 1982), in textbook form.

For the past 35 years his focus has been on K-12 mathematics education.  Joe served as Vice-Chair for Undergraduate Education in the Rutgers Mathematics Department for three years and chaired a Rutgers committee that focused on pre-college preparation of Rutgers students.  Through these and other activities, he became aware of the large number of students who, because of their inadequate preparation in mathematics, were essentially locked out of achieving the American dream.  Joe saw the improvement in mathematics education for all students as an appropriate continuation of his political activities in the 1960s, all of which were motivated by the Jewish principle of tikkun olam, of doing one’s part to fix a world that is broken.

Among his major activities have been the following:

  • organizing and directing professional development programs for K-12 teachers of mathematics, including the Leadership Program in Discrete Mathematics (see below) and over full-day 50 workshops each year for K-12 teachers in all areas of mathematics;
  • directing the New Jersey Mathematics Coalition (see below), which later evolved into the New Jersey Mathematics and Science Education Coalition, from 1991 to 2007;
  • strengthening mathematics education in New Jersey through developing the NJ Mathematics Standards and the NJ Mathematics Curriculum Framework;
  • organizing and serving as founding director (from 2001 to 2005) of MetroMath: The Center for Mathematics in America’s Cities, an NSF funded Center for Learning and Teaching;
  • organizing the Precalculus Conference, an annual conference for over 30 years, attended each year by over 200 teachers, that focuses on high school mathematics;
  • organizing the Rutgers Young Scholars Program in Discrete Mathematics – a four-week residential summer program for mathematically talented high school students – now in its 30th year (of which, although retired, Joe still serves as Co-Director); and
  • writing instructional materials for K-12 teachers focused on discrete mathematics, including Problem Solving and Reasoning With Discrete Mathematics.

All of these activities were conducted with the support of DIMACS (the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science), the Rutgers Center for Mathematics, Science and Computer Education, and the Rutgers Mathematics Department.

Joe served as Founding Director of the New Jersey Mathematics Coalition from 1991 until 2007.  State coalitions were formed in order to generate public support for the changes recommended by the “standards” of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.  From 1992 to 1997, Joe organized and managed the development of the New Jersey Mathematics Curriculum Framework, a collaborative effort of the New Jersey Mathematics Coalition and the New Jersey Department of Education (with Janet Caldwell and Warren Crown as co-authors). The purpose of the framework was to provide guidance to teachers and districts on how to implement the New Jersey Mathematics Standards adopted by the New Jersey State Board of Education on May 1, 1996. The 668-page framework was completed in December 1996 and distributed throughout the state in 1997. Joe served as co-chair of the committee that produced the 1996 standards and of the committee that produced the revised New Jersey Mathematics Standards adopted by the State Board of Education in 2002. An important Coalition initiative that Joe co-directed (with Warren Crown) was The FANS Project (Families Achieving the New Standards in Mathematics, Science, and Technology), which conducted over 1,400 hour-and-a-half workshops for over 30,000 parents to inform them about the standards and how they can help their children achieve them.

Joe directed the Leadership Program in Discrete Mathematics (LPDM) which provided summer institutes for K-12 teachers of mathematics from 1990 to 2009, with funding by NSF from 1990-2002.  Altogether, the LPDM was conducted in 14 states and provided two-week summer institutes for over 60 cohorts with a total of over 1000 teachers; many attended additional institutes in the subsequent summers.  Valerie DeBellis was the Associate Director of the LPDM, followed by Janice Kowalczyk.

An early outgrowth of the LPDM was the publication by Joseph Rosenstein of the book, Discrete Mathematics in the Schools, published jointly in 1997 by the American Mathematical Society and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Together with Valerie DeBellis, Eric Hart, and Margaret Kenney, Rosenstein co-authored two volumes entitled Navigating through Discrete Mathematics K-12, the first primarily for K-5 teachers (published in 2009) and the second primarily for 6-12 teachers (published in 2008). These volumes were part of a series of volumes published by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) to help teachers “navigate” through its mathematics standards (“Principles and Standards for School Mathematics”). 

Together with Valerie DeBellis, he co-authored Making Math Engaging: Discrete Mathematics for K-8 Teachers that was used in college courses for prospective K-8 teachers.  That book was substantially expanded, revised, and refocused into Problem Solving and Reasoning with Discrete Mathematics.

Joe Rosenstein at the launch of the MetroMath Center in November 2003, speaking enthusiastically about the Center's vision and goals.
Joe Rosenstein at the launch of the MetroMath Center in November 2003, speaking enthusiastically about the Center's vision and goals.