Wednesday, January 13, 2010

About Math for Profs

Welcome to my new blog.  Since entering graduate school in Fall 2004, I have taught a variety of math courses at the undergraduate level.  These five and a half years of teaching by no means make me an expert on the subject of teaching mathematics, but then that is part of the reason I wanted to start this blog.  I really really like teaching.  It is the reason I went to grad school in the first place.  I love being in front of a class.  I love watching students come to realize that mathematics can be attainable, even enjoyable.  But most of all, I love figuring out how best to convey the mathematics to my students.

I like teaching math because I like math.  There are some college professors who view teaching as a necessary evil -- an activity that pays the bills so they can spend time doing mathematics.  I do not take this view.  For me, solving the puzzle of how best to teach a particular topic is just as enjoyable as solving the puzzles of mathematics proper. 

Plenty has been written on how to be an effective teacher.  Unfortunately, most of this advise centers on general techniques of conveying information: speak and write clearly, ask engaging questions, encourage discussion, be well organized, etc.  Of course this is important.  But what I want to think about and share in this blog is much more specific.  I want to know the best way to teach implicit differentiation. What is the best example to answer a student when she asks why we need to learn about sequences and series?  What test questions should be avoided because they either are ambiguous or are mathematically unsound?  In other words, what is the best mathematical content for excellence in mathematics teaching.

In the months to come, I hope to have the time to explore some of these topics.  This semester I am teaching a few sections of Trigonometry, as well as a Discrete class for future Middle School teachers.  I suspect most posts will have to do with these subjects, but when I think of anything from other courses, I'll include those as well.  Oh, and if anyone actually finds this blog and reads it, I would love your feedback and input.  Let's get started...