We face a real crisis in science education in America. Despite decades of reform, America has made only modest gains in the science classroom, particularly in high schools. I represent below some of my teaching principles and ideas that work well for American students both in the classroom environment and in the private tutoring settings.
I was born and raised in Russia.
Since April 1991 I have lived in the United States, and I am proud to be an American citizen. I earned both my M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Mathematics and Physics from Moscow State University, one of the best in Russia. My real passion is teaching! My teaching experience includes more than 20 years of Mathematics, Physics and Computer Science courses, more than 20 years at public and private universities and colleges in the United States.
The basic principles of my teaching philosophy can be summarized as follows.
Everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, cultural or social origins, gender and age is capable of successfully learning the fundamental concepts of Mathematics. Unfortunately, our educational system misses this natural and brilliant opportunity to provide Math education to our students in the best age-related time-frame. Instead, we are multiplying the number of "mathematical Mowgli" by under-loading our children with Math in Elementary and Middle Schools and overloading them during the High School years!
Everyone must be given a chance to learn Math! My major duties and concerns are to stimulate students of all abilities to succeed in the Mathematics, by being helpful and encouraging, and choosing an appropriate pace in the classroom.
It seems necessary to explain to students why Mathematics is so important for them by indicating the two perspectives. The first perspective is a professional one (job related), while the second is personal: the development of a person's ability to concentrate, to think logically, to be persistent, creative, and critical, to know how to prove, what to memorize, and what and how to derive and apply.
Is there such thing as Math anxiety?
I somewhat agree with Dr. Steven Krantz when he writes (sarcastically) that the concept of Math Anxiety was invented about 20 years ago, probably in a school of education. He gives the classic examples of Math anxiety of the successful businessman who cannot calculate a tip, or the brilliant musician who cannot balance the checkbook. Of course, you would feel anxious to drive a car if you do not have necessary practical skills! I still think the situation with Math anxiety is not that simple. Some students are victims of inadequate or even wrong teaching.
I hold undergraduate teaching of Mathematics in high regard because I believe that high professionals must teach the very basics of Mathematical Sciences. To learn how to solve problems in Mathematics, a student needs to develop special skills and mastery based on numerous repeated exercises. The basic principle for me and for my students is Learning by Doing.
Mathematics is interesting and stimulating. It can help you to increase your self-esteem, make you more organized, accurate, focused, smart, rational, intuitive, critical and self-critical, honest, persistent and determined.
Mathematics is fun and it is beautiful! It has a lot in common with Music. I think that Music is the Mathematics of Emotions, while Mathematics is the Music of Ideas.
Successful teaching and learning are based on the permanent instructor-student dialog.
Obviously, a student has a right to ask questions, and should not feel intimidated asking questions.
Instructor-student interpersonal relations are based on mutual respect. I treat students as individuals and adults. I allow for students' individual differences and never compare publicly achievements of different students. I take into consideration students' personal problems.
Mathematics is a tool for many technical and technological occupations, including science.
How can anyone hate or be afraid of one's tool? If you respect and enjoy your profession and if you take care of the level of your qualification, you must love and polish Mathematics as one of your most powerful and useful tools.
Mathematics is different from other sciences in many ways. First, one of the very important social features of Mathematics is that Mathematics is one of the most democratic of all sciences. Any statement in Mathematics must be proved; that is, demonstrated logically. Proved mathematical statements are to be accepted not because of the power of authority, not as a result of an emotional (hypnotic) influence or a fear, but solely under the pressure of the convincing and crystal clear argumentation. There is no superiority in Mathematics other than the superiority of the Truth. If one can prove that he/she is right, the opponent must give up regardless his/her rank.
Mathematics and Physics are directly related to Ethics in a civilized society. They teach its students to be honest and consistent with themselves and with other people. Mathematics and Physics provide a beautiful way to increase one's self-esteem through the successful problem solving.
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