Mathematics Department - Teaching Skills and Credentials

Building Your Teaching Skills and Credentials


Mathematics Graduate Program

Effective teaching and communication plays an increasingly important part of the mathematical profession. For students who are aiming at an academic career, your potential as a teacher is likely to play a substantial (and often primary) role in the way you are evaluated for academic positions.

The Professional Development Coordinator (currently Professor Chris Woodward) is responsible for helping graduate students develop their teaching qualifications, and for arranging the teaching letter that is usually part of the application portfolio. The department maintains a teaching record for each graduate student which provides the bulk of the information for the Professional Development Coordinator to write the teaching letter. Please provide in your request for a teaching letter a list of your teaching experiences and other educational involvement, together with a list of those faculty who have observed your teaching and a list of deadlines. Please allow at least three weeks for any letter to be written.

The mathematics graduate program offers a T.A. training seminar, which is required for all students who are or will be supported as teaching assistants.

Teaching assistantships are the primary (but not the only) means for getting teaching experience during your time as a student. academic year often involve teaching. Most teaching assistantships in the mathematics department involve teaching calculus recitations, but experienced TAs can request to teach their own section of a course. Qualified students also have the opportunity to teach their own courses during the summer. T.A. and summer teaching assignments are handled by the undergraduate office.

The TA Project offers a series of workshops designed to help TAs develop their teaching skills and improve their marketability. Students who attend at least four sessions of a particular series will be eligible to receive a certificate indicating their commitment to teaching.

There are other opportunities for becoming involved in mathematics education: participation in REU programs, and educational fellowship programs such as Metromath Center Graduate Fellowships and Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education

All graduate student TAs should be observed in the classroom at least once each term (preferably early) by the instructor or another faculty member. The visitor should provide constructive feedback to the TA, and also write a report for the student's teaching record. While the undergraduate office attempts to ensure that all TAs are observed, you may have to be proactive and ask your instructor yourself. If for some reason the instructor cannot visit your class, contact the Professional Development Coordinator, who will arrange for someone else to visit.

If you have the opportunity to teach a summer course, you should similarly request that you be observed, to get feedback on your teaching and so that the report can be added to your record.

Some resources for teaching fellow include: A guide for teaching fellows, Teaching First: A Guide for New Mathematicians, by Thomas W. Rishel. Project Next is a professional development program for new or recent Ph.D.s in the mathematical sciences.

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