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He worked for 25 years as a columnist and online editor at Science News and continues as a longstanding columnist for the children's magazine Muse. He wrote the weekly online column Ivars Peterson’s MathTrek. He is the author of a number of popular mathematics and related books.
Ivars Peterson received the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics Communications Award in 1991 for "exceptional skill in communicating mathematics to the general public over the last decade".
For the spring 2008 semester, he accepted the Wayne G. Basler Chair of Excellence for the Integration of the Arts, Rhetoric and Science at East Tennessee State University. He gave a series of lectures on how math is integral in our society and our universe. He also taught a course entitled "Communicating Mathematics".
- Mathematical Treks: From Surreal Numbers to Magic Circles (2002) MAA ISBN 0-88385-537-2
- The Jungles of Randomness: A Mathematical Safari (1997) Wiley ISBN 0-471-16449-6
- Newton's Clock: Chaos in the Solar System (1993) W.H.Freeman ISBN 0-7167-2724-2
- Islands of Truth: Mathematical Mystery Cruise (1990) W.H.Freeman ISBN 0-7167-2148-1
- The Mathematical Tourist: Snapshots of Modern Mathematics (1988) W.H.Freeman ISBN 0-8050-7159-8