My teaching philosophy is grounded in creating an exciting and enthusiastic learning environment in which a strong and active partnership between educators and students can form. Whether in a classroom setting or privately during office hours, educators and students should be jointly invested in the learning enterprise.
I thoroughly enjoy my role as an educator, which I see as having three main responsibilities: 1) To provide engaging and accessible explanations of content with illustrative examples, 2) To give several opportunities for students to practice their new skills, both independently and with their peers, and 3) To provide appropriate metrics for students to gauge their own success.
For my first point, I believe my own enthusiasm for my work allows students to respond to, borrow, and grow their own interest for the course and material. However, to be an effective communicator and teacher, an educator must couple this passion with comprehensive understanding of content. By creating relevant and memorable examples to illustrate mathematical concepts, I can increase students’ likelihood of retaining and successfully applying the information to future situations. For the second point, I feel lectures are best given in shorter, compact segments. This allows multiple opportunities in between for students to practice examples of material just discussed, both independently and in small groups. This teaching method, combined with the aforementioned noteworthy examples, creates a strong pattern for student retention and success in both group and one-on-one settings. And for my last point, I conduct frequent, low-impact testing in my classes. These smaller quizzes are mandatory but individually carry low grade points so that students can easily gauge their understanding of current topics. In combination with two or three larger exams spread throughout the semester, students are never caught off-guard by their level of understanding in a given course. I believe in holistic grading, where credit is given for students successfully showing their knowledge and not for just rote recitation. Together, frequent assignments combined with holistic grading gives students the ability to pinpoint their weak areas of understanding and allows them ample time to seek and receive help before they would experience a significant drop in their grade.
Since my aim is to achieve a partnership, I charge my students with the following three tasks: 1) To be receptive to new information, 2) To apply themselves to the work assigned, and 3) To seek help whenever needed.
If a student is not willing to learn something new, then no amount of teaching will make them adept. Students must come to a learning environment with, at least, the desire to try in order to be teachable. Having taught multiple math courses to students of varying academic goals and abilities, I know first-hand that, unfortunately, most students are at least occasionally disinterested in what I am teaching. Therefore, I try to use humor and personal enthusiasm in my classes to motivate students to reconnect with the subject. Of course, no math class would be incomplete without some assigned practice. The homework I assign is carefully selected to provide the required practice needed to become proficient at the given topic; it is not “busy-work.” I frequently include working time for students during our scheduled lectures so that students can grapple with the new content amongst their peers (and myself) instead of at home alone. I strongly encourage students to work together in groups and believe the best learning comes from the experience of teaching others. Finally, if a student has trouble understanding the material in their assigned work, they should be willing and easily able to access peer and instructor counsel to achieve both competence and confidence in the subject matter. While I believe instructors are the educational authority for the class content, I am also a strong and vocal advocate for peer-to-peer math tutoring services. Having worked in, founded, and managed such services, I know first-hand how important and successful peer tutoring can be for students.
My work in founding UC Merced’s undergraduate mathematics tutoring lab - The Math Center - exemplifies my belief in forming these strong partnerships between educator and student. By working together for a common goal, both have a better chance of success and a more fulfilling journey along the way.
To conclude, mathematics is a topic for which I feel great joy and passion. By creating an engaging learning environment and providing opportunities to share in that enthusiasm, I strive to inspire students to be receptive, applied, and confident in their studies and understanding of the wide and wonderful world of mathematics.