I love teaching and helping others to understand the world in new ways. There is no more satisfying feeling than seeing light turn on in a student’s eyes as they suddenly see how to break down the problem, or the solution, or (best of all) the ideas and meaning behind the equation. I love the study of Mathematics because it teaches you how to think. I want to share my passion for logic and problem solving with my students so they are prepared to go out into the world and make it a better place.
I believe in creating a learning environment that makes the study of Mathematics personal and engaging. Math teachers always have to struggle with the phobia stereotypes and the first job of a good Math teacher is to confront this stereotype head-on. Providing real-world and real-life examples that are relevant to students is an outstanding way to do just that. But math is also the study of logic, reason, and problem solving. I explain to students that if they can learn how to break a math problem down and find a solution to it, then they can solve any problem in their lives. Now this required math class has immediate value in the real world for them.
I would like my students to think that learning in my class is fun and that they are capable of learning anything given enough time and effort. They are much more likely to grow into lifelong learners if they enjoy learning new things. This is a vital skill in a future made constantly uncertain by the accelerating pace of new technology developments.
The first day of Calculus class I like to explain to my students that we will be “walking in the footsteps of Newton”. This provides context for what they will be learning while also giving them an epic vision for what they can accomplish if they apply themselves. I have a few of these “stock motivational lectures” that I have used over the years to help motivate a class when they hit a lull or bump in the semester (“The value and importance of failure”, “I don’t care about your grades”, “Meghan’s Magical Formula for solving any problem ever”).
Beyond lectures, I create a lot of activities around group work and encourage students to learn from each other. Often I’ve taught these topics so much that I forget about the little steps that may not be as obvious to them as it is to me.
Also periodically throughout the semester (and throughout a single lecture) I check in with the class and ask if the activities are working for them or if I need to try a different approach. I once experimented with a class and had them compare their experiences between a purely lecture based class to a purely group-based problem solving class. After trying out both styles I asked student which they preferred and to my surprise they asked that I integrate elements of both into future classes.