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Zoltan Paul Dienes (1916-2014)

Zoltan Dienes photoZoltan Dienes passed away peacefully on January 11, 2014 with family and friends beside him, and the sounds of Hungarian folks songs being sung, as well as one written by his mother, Valeria. His obituary can be found at this link.

Donations in memory can be made to Canadian Friends Service Committee or Compassion Canada

Feel free to leave comments on this post if you wish to celebrate his life. (Click on the post title: “Zoltan Paul Dienes (1916-2014)” if you cannot see the comment box.)

{ 59 comments… add one }
  • Adam & Michelle Boyd January 13, 2014, 10:45 am

    Dear Dienes Family,
    Michelle and I offer our condolences on the passing of Dr. Dienes. His ideas have certainly impacted my profession as a mathematics teacher, and will continue to influence the profession for many years. May the peace of God be with your family in this difficult time.
    Adam & Michelle

  • Arthur Fink January 13, 2014, 12:47 pm

    I never knew Zoltan Dienes . . . just his legacy passed on to a wonderful son.

    Holding your whole family in the Light . . . that you may find some joy in the story of this wonderful man, even amidst your grief that his life here is past.

    I’ll be with you all in Spirit.

  • Alanna Chandler January 13, 2014, 3:55 pm

    I feel truly blessed to have known this truly amazing, intelligent, and kind man. I have known him for the past 6 six years through my career with VON. He has shared so many stories, poems, songs and ideas in that short time. I want to send to his whole family my deepest sympathy. He will be missed by many but all of us who knows him knows he is happy now because he will be with his wife.:) May you rest in Peace Zoltan. I am honoured to have known you.

  • famiglia Scocchera January 13, 2014, 4:01 pm

    Commossi dalla notizia della scomparsa del grande matematico e dell’illuminato maestro, ricordiamo il lontano incontro con il Professore e sua moglie, che avemmo l’onore di ospitare in un piccolo borgo della campagna italiana in occasione di una interessantissima lezione magistrale da lui tenuta ad Ancona. Per noi montessoriani fu una conferma e una scoperta.
    Lo ricorderemo con affetto.

  • Melinda Chandler, VON January 13, 2014, 5:02 pm

    Sarah and family: So deeply sorry for your loss. Truly one of the most amazing individual I have had a privilege of meeting and getting to know. Thank you Zoltan, for the abundance of knowledge you shared with each of us during our daily visit with you. The many stories of your past were like no other. You will be dearly missed. RIP

    Melinda, VON

  • Theresa Coffey January 13, 2014, 9:48 pm

    Sorry to here about you dad. Condolence too the family. theresa

  • Sandra Therrien January 13, 2014, 10:06 pm

    It has been a pleasure to know you Zoltan, and always an interesting conversation. I enjoyed the music and books we shared together, and even the mathematical game, once I caught on. I remember you with a smile and fond memories. You truly were blessed with a loving family and each and every day you were surrounded by love and kindness…I will miss you my friend….

  • Marta González January 14, 2014, 2:47 am

    Mis condolencias a la familia.
    Soy una ingeniera y maestra española que he tenido la gran suerte de crecer junto a sus bloques lógicos.
    Me encuentro en España haciendo un trabajo de postgrado sobre materiales manipulativos para matemáticas y buscando biografía sobre este gran matemático me entero acaba de fallecer.
    Mi más sentido pésame.

  • Ricardo Cantoral January 14, 2014, 1:54 pm

    Mis sentimientos de solidaridad para la familia. Vivirá cn cada uno de nosotros. Prof. Ricardo Cantoral

  • John and Louise (Hackett) Glass January 14, 2014, 2:58 pm

    My condolences on the loss of your dad. I am so proud to have been a personal friend of Zoltan and your mom Tessa. Many happy hours spent with them. Zolton was amazing and will be remembered for what he has brought to not only his students but the world. They were both so proud of all their children and grandchildren. Great memories for great couple.

  • Janet Abbey January 14, 2014, 9:49 pm

    I heard Dienes speak in the mid 1970’s at Temple University and have never forgotten his presentation. I knew a student of his work from France who was passionate about him which was why I went to hear him at Temple.10 year olds getting perfect 800’s in SAT scores and still there is math illiteracy in the US. We must want it that way.

  • Susan Kirton January 15, 2014, 4:02 am

    Sarah, Bruce and family, so sorry to hear of you dads passing. He was a very kind and gentle soul and I feel very honoured to have had the opportunity to have met such a wise man. I am thankful for my last visit with Zoltan how nice it was sitting reading his book about his life and how much he had enjoyed that. And for me that is a memory I will forever cherish. Take care and may God be with all of you.
    Susan Kirton VON

  • Jeanette aalders January 15, 2014, 4:44 am

    Sending prayers to Sarah and family in the loss of your Dad ,Zoltan was truly a great man .I feel blessed that through my work with the Von I was given the pleasure to get to know Zoltan l throughly enjoyed all of his wonderful stories about his life and his adventures ,zoltan was always a gentelman he will be greatly missed . Thanks Zoltan for inspiri ng me to learn a new language

  • Anne Bowker January 15, 2014, 12:15 pm

    ‘Uncle’ Zed hugely influenced my love and understanding of mathematics. As a child ‘demo’ kid at the Z association conferences I was privileged to benefit directly from his teaching as well as having an enthusastic teacher (my mum) using his games in ‘logic lessons’ back in my primary school. A number of years later when I was studying A level maths I remember an incident where I had finished all the work well ahead of everyone else, to the point that I wondered if I had missed something, and sat about analysing how this came to be: I had learnt and understood the principles of the excercises 9 years before (when I was 8) through one of uncle Zed’s games: my very bright A level friends had not, and were therefore struggling to understand the concepts for the first time (and this despite the fantastic maths teacher we had at the time). As an academic education researcher I am very aware of how difficult it is to find evidence such as this anecdote provides or to make it ‘rigorous’ but there is no doubt in my mind about the extraordinary power of Zed’s work. I still have and cherish Zed’s letters and accompanying games, the little presents Tessa gave to me each year and the Z association magazines (inherited from mum) and hope that other children may long continue to benefit from his work.

  • Mandy Field January 15, 2014, 3:39 pm

    To all the family, sending you my love. I am so proud to be Zoltan’s granddaughter. What a life he led and what a legacy now remains. If I could achieve a fragment of what he did in his life, I would be very content. Mandy Dienes Field

  • marke slipp January 15, 2014, 4:31 pm

    Although I didn’t know Zoltan personally I heard about him through various hearing people speak of him in glowing terms over the past few years. I knew I would like him immediately due to history, intellect & his playful approach to learning. I have always regarded mathematics as a basic element of art, and Zoltan saw that too, and was able to communicate it to people, through music & poetry, as I understand it.

    My condolences to his family; I know he will be missed. May his love continue to grow within you.

  • Dora January 15, 2014, 6:44 pm

    Such a beautiful man, I am so sorry for your loss. Blessings to you and your family at this time. Love, Dora

  • Ian &Lila Hope-Simpson January 16, 2014, 12:17 am

    My condolences to the family of Zoltan, a fine and wonderful man whose contributions will live on.

  • Lesley Hartman January 16, 2014, 2:49 am

    Dear Bruce and family,

    I am so sorry for your loss and wish you all comfort. Thank-you for sharing this website. What a beautiful way to pay tribute to him– sharing pieces of his life’s work beyond the academy. What a gift he has given to so many people, empowering them in understanding math, and opening doors for their creativity, and intellectual and spiritual enrichment and enlightenment. Even though I never met him, I feel lucky to have shared this Earth with such a man, and to be inspired by his story.

  • Peter Jowitt January 16, 2014, 5:40 am

    My condolences to Zoltan’s family.
    I was briefly connected to Zoltan at aged 7 when I was a friend of Nigel, his son. The fascinating stamps from Hungry with “Magyar” on them started a lifetime interest in stamp collecting. Later on in life, when I was a teacher, his methodology of teaching mathematics had a profound influence on me and my teaching.

  • Robert Stevens January 16, 2014, 10:20 am

    My memories of the Professor are of a gentle and very kind man who had a real sense of humour. He welcomed me into the family with open arms when I married daughter Jasmine, and had great pleasure in teasing me with Maths puzzles which “8-year olds could do” (and I couldn’t)!!

    He will be missed by many but his legacy of educational mathematics methods will live on.

    Much love

  • Zoltan Dienes jr January 16, 2014, 10:24 am

    One thing to always remember about Zeddie is his kindness and happiness. He laughed often from the sheer joy of talking maths, of talking to children, of being with people. With much love, Zoltan

  • Roberto S.Pinto January 16, 2014, 11:39 am

    Cumpriu sua missão. Descanse em Paz.

  • ELENIR TEREZINHA PALUCH SOARES January 16, 2014, 11:53 am

    Querido Dienes!

    Sinto muito por você ter ido embora, pois gostaria que lesse a tese de doutorado que defendo dia 12 de fevereiro próximo, na Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná, em Curitiba, PR, Brasil, na qual você é o principal personagem.

    Obrigada por tudo que fez pela Educação Matemática.


  • ELENIR TEREZINHA PALUCH SOARES January 16, 2014, 12:16 pm

    Dear Dienes!

    I’m sorry you have gone. I would like to read the thesis I defend February 12 next, the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná, Brazil, in which you are the main character.
    Thanks for all you did for Mathematics Education.


  • Daphne Davey January 16, 2014, 1:07 pm

    To Bruce and family:

    What a wonderful contribution your father made to the world! I remember meeting your parents in Montreal in 1969 after they so kindly invited my friend and me, new immigrants to Canada, to lunch. Of course I had no idea the company I was keeping! Such a passage will be mourned but also celebrated. I am sure you will experience both emotions, but hope you will receive the greatest comfort from the celebration of Zoltan’s life.

  • PROFESSOR CONSTANTINO DE SOUSA January 16, 2014, 2:33 pm


  • Melanie Lefebvre January 16, 2014, 2:41 pm

    My heart goes out to everyone in the family. While I never did meet Zoltan, I’m honoured to be his granddaughter. He seemed like quite the incredible person.

  • DENISE MEDINA DE ALMEIDA FRANÇA January 16, 2014, 3:51 pm

    Dear, Teaacher,
    I ´ve been always admired your dedication with children development. You did a wonderful job for the math education. My PhD these is based on your work. I feel sorry that you didn´t have time to read it. Rest in peace.
    Denise Medina

  • Ângela Susana Jagmin Carretta January 16, 2014, 4:36 pm

    Lamento muito a morte de Dienes. Em 1977 me encantei por sua obra, nas aulas de Didática da Matemática do Curso Normal, no CSCJ, numa pequena cidade do noroeste do RS – Ijuí. Encantada com a possibilidade de ensinar matemática de um modo interativa, capaz de seduzir crianças e jovens para essa ciência, serva de todas as outras, em seguida ingressei na Unijuí, onde conheci outras de suas obras. Descanse em paz e obrigada por todo o legado deixado para nós. Meus sentimentos a todos seus familiares e amigos.

  • Maria M. Rudiuk January 16, 2014, 10:56 pm

    Dear Sarah, Bruce and family:

    We are never ready to say good-bye to someone whom we respect and love, but we have the ability to remember not just that they died, but that they lived. And that your wonderful dad – Zoltan and wonderful mom – Tessa gave us memories too beautiful to forget.

    I have to confess, I cannot think about Zoltan without thinking about Tessa. What a great and beautiful couple they were. They touched the minds and hearts of many. Let’s cherish their memory and be strong… for them. The gratitude should conquer the loss.

    We are with you in this hard time.

    Maria M. Rudiuk

    Let us find comfort in knowing that someone so special for so many will never be forgotten.


    In the days numbered
    when suddenly changes end
    “numbered days” closing,
    death turns out to be abrupt, just unrefined
    (not) your ability

    just realism
    of overwhelming “necessity”
    for one brutally delicate organism,
    for one creature, not – for a species,
    a species growth is not to be interrupted!

    BeCause life “towards death”
    is present to be “the present” – a gift,
    not – the “any-thing”,
    not – nothing just dust,
    not – the Great Escape,

    it has to do with work,
    with the present of everyday tasks
    of taking your own mortal part – precious
    for the construction of The Great Continuum,
    naturally in the days numbered, naturally

    something that keeps on going
    the precision and poesies
    of some strange, unknown urgency,
    just another emigration
    of wanderers from here – there instancy.

  • Kitty January 17, 2014, 4:19 pm

    My heart is with all of you ….. I am very sad for you loss, and for mine …

    I miss my Uncle Zed …

    Love to you all ….

    Kitty es Aga

  • Gordon Jeffery January 17, 2014, 5:30 pm

    “Brilliant, kind and caring” are the key words which sum up my friend and mentor. Kathryn and Mary Jane enjoyed his math activities with them – while I took Tessa shopping. Contact with Zoltan was a great privilege and a blessing.

    Zoltan has left a family that he was proud of and who exhibit many of his strengths. May pride in Zoltan strengthen them at this time.

  • Rilka Oakley January 17, 2014, 7:50 pm

    Granddad Zoltan taught me how to see things differently. To look at things from unusual angles. I feel so lucky to have had some time with him. Love to all the family. Rilka

  • Soraia (Dora Soraia Kindel) January 17, 2014, 8:05 pm

    Dear Dienes Family I offer my condolences on the passing of Dr Dienes. His ideas have certainly impacted my profession as a mathematics teachers and will continue influence for many years too.

    Thanks for all you did for Mathematics Education.

  • Penni January 18, 2014, 3:20 am

    It was an honour to spend time with Zoltan in his last few years with us. His ability to connect with people of all kinds and share his passions and talents generously was so obvious. I appreciated his thoughtful insights, kindness and gentle love for all.
    My sympathies to Bruce, Sarah and Jancis, and all the rest of the family and friends who will miss him as will I.
    Holding him and all who loved him in the light as you honour his life tomorrow.

  • Elsa Rodrigues January 20, 2014, 2:54 pm

    I am grieving. I’ve just knew about Zoltán Pál Dienes death but I believe that his legacy will last for ages. His methodology had a great impact on so many children all over the world. Here in Portugal he is known by his logic blocks that are used in many schools, in particularly on the João de Deus Kindergartens.
    Humanity is thankful for his life.
    Rest in peace.

  • Carl Stieren January 23, 2014, 9:15 pm

    Dear Bruce, Sarah, and all Zoltan’s relatives,

    What a wonderful man and what a wonderful mind! One summer, I took the opportunity to have lunch with Zoltan when I was in Windsor, Nova Scotia, for the Canadian (Quaker) Yearly Meeting. His brilliant insights into how children learn mathematics were wonderful and fascinating, as everyone can read in his autobiography. Bruce, you have carried on that skill of combining using complex technical knowledge and empowering people. Zoltan’s star is still shining brightly.


  • Brian Greer January 24, 2014, 3:36 pm

    In 1968 I was browsing shelves in the library at Queen’s University, Belfast, when I saw a book with the intriguing title “Thinking in Structures” by Dienes and Jeeves, which became the focus of my work over the next fifteen years, during which I had the privilege of attending many of the meetings of the International Study Group for Mathematics Learning founded by Zed. At these wonderful gatherings, particularly those in Italy, I had the opportunity for deep discussions on mathematics education with Zed, Malcolm Jeeves, John Williams, Sandor Klein, and others. Zed and Tessa showed much kindness to me in many ways. I remember Zed being awarded his honorary doctorate by the University of Siena, but my abiding memory is of him sitting on the floor, playing mathematics with enthralled children.

    Brian Greer, Portland, Oregon

  • Enrico Pasini February 4, 2014, 4:05 pm

    Munich, 4.02.2014
    Dear Dienes Family, it is with great sadness that I have received the
    news of the death Professor Dienes. I remember him and his beloved
    wife Tessa among the persons dear to my parents since the days of my
    childhood in Ravenna. The professional encounter among Professor Dienes
    and my father (an experience then reflected in his book, Ermanno Pasini:
    “Incontro con Dienes – Testimonianze di un´esperienza”) soon developed in
    a true friendship and I remember their visits to our house when they were
    traveling to Italy. I remember him not only as great mathematician and educator,
    as innovator of teaching techniques and learning processes (that
    also left in the young kid I was the idea that math is an interesting game),
    but, and most of all, also as a very dear friend of my family and as a wonderful and unique human being.
    I am close to all of you in this moment of great sorrow.

    Enrico Pasini

  • Timothy Paul Dienes February 6, 2014, 6:43 pm

    My first knowledge of him was the result of wondering if anyone with the same surname was in the library card catalog. I was pleasantly surprised, but distracted, and only found him again many years later, and had the joy of a brief correspondence, and how we have not only mathematics and heritage, but poetry and no doubt ancestry at some point in common. Acquiring his writings brought joy to our family. If only we had the opportunity to enjoy his company. His legacy is amazing. I look forward to getting better acquainted in the heavenly mansions.

  • Esther Pillar Grossi February 12, 2014, 10:07 pm

    For GEEMPA-Grupo de Estudos sobre Educação, Metodologia de Pesquisa e Ação- Educational Study Group on Methodology Research and Action – the death of Professor Zoltan Paul Dienes was felt deeply. After a month we are still emotional remembering the visits of Dienes in Porto Alegre and how much he taught to children and teachers about mathematics. He was awesome in creating challenges for the children to be interested in mathematics. GEEMPA had the chance to participate in an International Research among other countries, like Canada, the United States, Hungary achieving the best results, led by Zoltan Paul Dienes as a member of International Study Group for Mathematics Learning. These results were an outcome of his many visits to Porto Alegre. Thousand teachers attending his first workshop in a stadium and admired his way to conduct several groups of children solving interesting and different mathematics problems.
    Pupils linked to GEEMPA in Brazil and in Colombia are grateful to Dienes‘ invention the Multibase Arithmetic Blocks, for this didactical game is a powerful tool in learning the mathematical logic. Not to mention two Dienes didactical scientific, among several aproaches – the Real Numbers and Finite Geometries are marvelous.

  • Malcom Jeeves February 14, 2014, 2:24 pm

    I write primarily to say how much I valued my friendship and working relationship with Zed.

    Before I went to Australia to be Foundation Professor of Psychology at the University of Adelaide in 1959 I had met with Zed and we found a common interest in the study of thinking. As soon as I was able I arranged for Adelaide University to offer Zed a Readership in my department . Thus began many fruitful years of collaboration resulting in books like Thinking in Structures and The Effects of Transfer on Structural Learning.

    When Zed moved to Sherbrooke we continued to work together and many were the times when I stayed with Zed and Tessa.We also continued to meet in Italy from time to time.

    Zed was a truly unusual person. Remarkably talented, gracious and kind. His legacy will be long felt by many in different parts of the world. We shared a deep Christian commitment which showed through in all his relationships.

    Please convey my deepest condolences to all the family .

    Malcolm Jeeves
    Emeritus Professor Malcolm Jeeves C.B.E., F.Med Sci., F.R.S.E., P.P.R.S.E.
    School of Psychology and Neuroscience , St. Andrews University , Scotland

  • luis vicente February 15, 2014, 8:30 pm

    Lamento mucho esta gran pérdida. Acompaño a toda tu familia, la personal y a todos los que hemos intentado emularte en el difícil camino de mostrar que las matemáticas merece la pena conocerlas, solo para darnos cuenta lo mágicas que son. Un abrazo muy fuerte y espero conocerte más a través de tus libros

  • Edwyn Graham February 23, 2014, 1:55 am

    When I was a child in 1963 Zoltan and family showed great kindness to me when we stayed with him in Adelaide Australia as my older sister passed away. He was incredibly kind and gave my younger sister and I a lot of compassion. If I remember correctly I think his son’s name was Julian and they had lived in Hawaii. We stayed in a street called Statenborough Avenue in Adelaide. Some very powerful, fond and sad memories.
    Deepest condolences to the family just as you sheltered us at a very difficult time during our bereavement.

  • Edwyn Graham February 23, 2014, 2:26 am

    Just to follow up the last comment. Apologies if got the son’s name wrong. It was 50 years ago and I was just a child. I remember the son’s face clearly and us having a great time on his foot scooter and exploring the huge hedge in the front garden. He was a great companion. If he would like to make contact and confirm the correct name that would be welcome when he has had sufficient mourning. I remember going to Adelaide uni at that time with Dr Dienes and checking out his lecture room. I recall the mass of equations on the black board. I remember the older sister too making me a cup of milo when I was being told of my sister’s death and a pair of black jeans the family bought me at the Adelaide Show. Odd what a young child remembers. The main thing though that I recall was Zed’s immense kindness to me in my trauma.
    Condolences again to you all.

  • Rachel Read and Chris Robinson March 25, 2014, 2:24 pm

    We were sad to read that Zed had died but thinking about him brought back many memories of him working with us at Dartington Primary School when he lived in Totnes , England.
    His inspirational and creative teaching methods kept both children and teachers totally absorbed. He encouraged everybody to think logically whilst having fun using stories and games. By moving both ourselves and his mathematical materials we all gained a sound understanding the world of maths.

  • István Nagy April 17, 2014, 4:46 pm

    Isten adjon örök nyugalmat számára. Egy igazi csillag volt. Szivünkben mindig élni fog.

    Nagy D. István és családja, Adelaide, Australia.

  • Rosemary Frood (Turner) April 25, 2014, 1:33 pm

    Dear Sarah, Jancis, Bruce and families,
    I offer my condolences on the passing of your father Zoltan – a wonderful, man, blessed with great intelligence, a long life and a loving family. I remember him from the time when your family lived in Adelaide. Although I was just a young teenager then, Zoltan was memorable for the enthusiasm he showed in logic games and how he included everyone, and explained quite complicated ideas in a clear way. I was impressed by his insights into life and by his generosity, such as taking a group of us teenagers to the Beatles concert – a wonderful memory of that whole evening.
    His autobiography makes you feel as if he is speaking – direct, thoughtful, witty, and his mathematical teachings are an enduring legacy. He was and remains an inspiration.

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