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Office: BH 2446 479.619.4380
 

The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards.
Anatole France


I enjoy teaching. There is nothing like the experience of presenting mathematical ideas and concepts to interested students, those who desire to know, to understand, to visualize. I have never taught a course in which I didn't have at least one student come up after a class to ask a what if question (i.e., one that goes beyond what is expected to fulfill a search for knowledge and understanding just to satisfy a personal curiosity). Although days may pass in which no such interest is shown, based on experience I expect that my enthusiasm for the content at hand will generate this kind of response.

Teaching Methods and Strategies:

When teaching, one needs to keep in mind the abilities of the students, the level of the course and the current topics under discussion. It is important to relate a current mathematical idea to an idea with which the students will be familiar. For example, I like to relate the concept of independence of path from Calculus III to that of the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus from Calculus I or relate multiplication of polynomials in algebra to multiplication to numbers of two or more digits from grade school.

Another consideration is to make the students feel comfortable within the classroom setting. Students should be challenged but not intimidated. In one upper level course, I required each student to present a proof to the entire class. But I didn't prepare the students for the pressures of talking in front of their peers and their instructor, and presenting a proof. I now realize the amount of pressure on them was just too great to expect success. Now I have each student begin by presenting a simple problem, then building up to proofs after they have become more self assured and thus empowering them to succeed.

Teaching at different levels; developmental, general studies, support and upper level courses; has been a personal challenge for me. At the developmental end of the spectrum, it is essential to keep a watchful eye on the students from the very start of the semester while working toward the goal that each of them will understand that learning is their responsibility. Upper level students have developed the responsibilities, but their curiosities need to be continually stimulated. Assignments and Expectations:

It is very important that students are focused throughout the course. Clearly stated objectives and expectations are given at the beginning of the semester. This includes type and frequency of assignments, homework expectations and attendance policy. Assignments range from routine mechanics to probing exercises designed for cognitive development. This semester, in differential equations, students were required to read several essays related to the topics covered, while in calculus, assignments were given to increase the students quantitative reasoning abilities.

Evaluation of Student Performance:

There must be an evaluation of each student. This will help to determine the progress of the student and any need for a reassessment of current teaching methods. Evaluation comes primarily through exams, homework assignments and periodic quizzes. Results from special projects, assignments or readings are a good measure of a student's motivation.

Use of Technology in Teaching:

Not too long ago, a teacher of mathematics would use only a piece of chalk and a blackboard. Today, the use of computers has extended to the classroom. Computer generated graphics help the students to visualize mathematical concepts. Many of the routine calculations which previously required much time now takes only moments. This allows the students to observe more cases of a particular concept. I am somewhat familiar with Derive and have used a little (yet powerful) program called Mathematical Plotting Program. I feel that technology should be on tap, not on top. I have used computers in the past, and will continue to do so. However, computers should enhance, not replace, much of the traditional classroom lecture.

The Teacher Outside the Classroom:

One thing that enhances learning is to have one-to-one contact with the students whenever possible. Many students, especially those in large classes, are uncomfortable asking questions with others present. Each student needs to feel at ease with his/her instructor. I need to make the student feel that he/she is welcome and not an intruder. After all, I don't stop being a teacher just because the class time has ended. I am truly interested in the complete development of the student. Not just for my class or for the semester or even for the time they're in school, but I hope to keep in contact with them long after graduation.

Teaching Strengths and Characteristics:

If you ask many of my students about my teaching, some comments may be: "he's able to clearly explain the concepts", "he always has time for questions" or "he understands the difficulties we have with some new ideas". However, I would say my strength is the desire to improve. As stated above, not every method I have tried was successful. It is important to adjust so as to optimize teaching performance.



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