Here are the reports for the Fall 2004 UTAs.

Erin Blomquist

Sponsor: David Lomen, Ph.D.
Course: MATH 110

My Experience as an Undergraduate TA:

When I first signed up for the program, I had no expectations as to what this program will do for me. I had been a tutor for the last few years privately as well as for the Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques program, so I felt the next progressive step would be to become a teaching assistant. Teaching has interested me as a possible career, and this opportunity would let me see if I would enjoy this.

The first day of class I was nervous and ended up sitting among the students. Initially, they thought I was part of the class until I was introduced as the TA. Professor Lomen on that first day of class set up a study group session that I would run every week for 2 hours on Tuesdays. This part of the class I enjoyed the most; it gave me an opportunity to get to know some of the students.

After the first few weeks, I got to know who the regulars were to the session as well as learn who is most interested in doing well in the class. I created a good rapport with these students and personally wanted them to do well in the class. We would go over problems in the homework and topics covered in class. I clarified some of the hard subject matter, helping them to understand the material better. It was extremely gratifying when the students would come up to me after their test and thank me for having a review over the material and going over a specific topic that ended up on the exam. It was even more rewarding when I saw great test scores from the regulars.

At one point during the semester, I had the chance to teach. I was extremely nervous to teach, standing in front of all the students and worrying I might make a mistake. I ended up confusing them a bit and also overestimated what they understood. I learned asking, .Do you understand?. or .Are there any questions over this material?. and getting no response does not necessarily mean they understand the material. When students in my review session the following Tuesday told me .I did well,. it made me feel that maybe this .teaching thing. can work for me.

This opportunity has truly opened my eyes. If someone were to ask me if I enjoyed this experience, I would reply .Absolutely!. and recommend it to him or her. If someone were to ask me if I would consider teaching after this experience, I would say .Definitely!. Although I did not get to know every person in that class or interested everyone in math, it was few I did reach that made what I did worthwhile.

Abstract of Presentation:

In teaching the math 110 course, I realized that many students suffer from learning disabilities in math. In the course I was a TA for, there were at least 5 students with math learning disabilities. It is these students that really tried the hardest in the class. Not only was the material hard for a regular student, these students had to overcome there learning disability to do well.

The clinical name for a math disability is dyscalculia, but other learning disabilities like dyslexia can have an affect on students in math. Depending on what the math disability is, different techniques in teaching are necessary to help the student succeed in their math courses.

The problem with math learning disabilities in the primary and secondary educational systems are that there are no special programs for these students like there are for reading-learning disabled students. In most cases, these students are held back in lower math classes when special teaching techniques is all that is needed for success with these students. Some math-disabled students do better in much higher math classes, where theory is more important than computational techniques.

There needs to be a push in primary and secondary educational systems for programs for these students. These students need the positive reinforcement as well as the necessary help to do well in these math classes.

Gabriel Marcus

Sponsor: Dr. Fred Stevenson
Course: MATH 125

My experiences this semester as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant have been extremely rewarding. It has allowed me to explore the opportunity to teach in a friendly and comfortable environment, something I think would be beneficial for all students to experience. However, before this program I was unsure whether or not I wanted to teach. The thought had crossed my mind a few times and it always seemed that the teaching assistants in my other classes really enjoyed what they were doing. So when the opportunity was presented to join a program that offered this very position I decided to give it a shot. It turned out that this decision was one of the better ones that I have made in my undergraduate career. I now consider teaching a possible career path I may investigate with greater enthusiasm.

Dr. Fred Stevenson was kind enough to allow me to accompany him as a teaching assistant in his accelerated Calculus I course, Math 125. Some of my responsibilities directly relating to his class included reviewing the students. homework, attending classes, holding review sessions and holding office hours. All of these responsibilities gave me a lot of direct contact with the students. This turned out to be beneficial for the students, for the instructor and for myself. The students were offered, through my office hours and review sessions, another means by which they could ask questions and get help rather than seeing the instructor directly. This was by no means a substitute for attending the instructor's office hours and developing a relationship with that individual. Rather, it provided students an additional option to seek help in a similar environment.

Another responsibility required by the program included tutoring in the tutor lab. I felt I benefited most from this part of the program. In the lab, I had direct one on one contact with students and was given the opportunity to help guide them through the difficulties they encountered in their homework problems. It had been a while since I had taken any introductory Calculus courses (124, 129, 223). I found myself having to review the material. Through the process of explaining and teaching given concepts that I had not seen in quite some time I felt that I had gained a better understanding of some of the difficulties involved in the application of the concepts as well as some of the difficulties involved in their presentation. In this was I solidified my knowledge of the material.

Abstract of Presentation:

One of the things that I found most disturbing while teaching an undergraduate introductory math class was the fact that many students had no idea how to study. In high school, these students were spoon fed material and were not really held responsible for working on their own. In fact, I asked many of my students whether they read the textbook. More often than not the answer was "no". Therefore, I thought it would be beneficial to inform these students of proper studying methods. My presentation included tips on where, when, what, why, and how much to study. Whether or not the students acknowledged the need for improved study habits was their own prerogative, but I feel that many of them heeded my remarks and applied some of the suggestions that I made.

Matt Martinez

Sponsor: Steve Wheaton
Course: MATH 111

Being a UTA member I have learned a lot of things about choosing the right career for myself. I am still undecided about being a math education major or being an engineer. Just being in this program has strengthened my basic math skills especially the ones I have not used since high school. I found being involved in the UTA program has been the most rewarding job that I have ever had. This job has taught me many aspects of becoming a math teacher and I have a new perspective of what I see of tutors teaching myself. The tutors that teach me have a higher level math skill and are familiar with the subject matter and I believe that I have helped various students. I believe that I have strongly benefited from this program and now faced with the difficult challenge of deciding what I want to do for the rest of my life with the major that I choose in college but luckily I'm a sophomore that needs to make up my mind soon.

Abstract of Presentation:

The main thing that I focused on this semester was working in the tutor center like everyone else and grading one of the sections of assignments each week from my instructors Trigonometry class. In my presentation I basically talked about various methods of helping students in the tutor room and styles and techniques of grading papers. This presentation covered the techniques that I learned and I demonstrated how it applies to myself in the UTA program. One of the difficulties that I had with this course is explaining some of the early stages of Trig about the various functions with out getting to far ahead of my self and found myself using the book to explain certain concepts so I can stay at the same level as the students. Overall being in the UTA Program has been a rewarding opportunity to help other students with math and I have benefited so much with this experience and I can't decide on a major right now.

Matthew Moore

Sponsor: Jim Barrett
Course: MATH 112

My UTA Experience:

For the entirety of the semester, I have been a UTA for Math 110, instructed by Jim Barrett. As a UTA, I regularly attended class, conducted review sessions, held office hours, and tutored. I was most satisfied by the experience of conducting review sessions and getting a feel for different teaching methods and their effectiveness. Furthermore, after noticing trends of appealing to Multiple Intelligences within the curriculum of the course, I was able to adapt Multiple Intelligence Theory to tutoring and review sessions. When I first began to hold office hours, I was dismayed by low attendance by the class. However, after changing the title from "office hours" to "weekly review session" and reminding the class of the hours, I received a large increase in the number of students attending and the frequency with which they attended. Though only a slight change in name, I found that the difference in perception was that many students were intimidated by "office hours" and less intimidated by a so called "review session".

Abstract of Presentation:

In my experience as a UTA — tutoring, grading, and interacting with students — I have noticed certain trends within the curriculum of the class. In the book used in the class, College Algebra by Rockswold, whenever a new concept is introduced it is introduced in three ways: graphically, numerically, and symbolically. By introducing new ideas in this manner, the book is made more pedagogically effective by appealing to various and diverse types of Multiple Intelligences. An analysis of Multiple Intelligence Theory reveals the true strength that is inherent in introducing ideas in this manner.

Nathan Thomas

Sponsor: Tina Schuster
Course: MATH 124

I enrolled in the Undergrad Teaching Assistant program this fall to help me choose a path in life. At the beginning of the semester I had thoughts of either trying to become an actuary, which uses math to in a sense model the future for companies, or something that I always thought I would enjoy, teaching. I had been introduced to the idea of becoming an actuary by a close friend and immediately started taking steps in that direction. After mentioning my thoughts about teaching, my advisor suggested that I try the UTA program. I am really glad that he did.

My experience in the general math tutoring rooms three hours a week really showed me how much I did and did not remember from previous classes. It was challenging to be put on the spot several times an hour for several different subject matters. The hours spent in the tutoring room really helped sharpen my skills for math classes I was currently taking.

While working with my class I graded papers and held study sessions regularly and before tests. My sponsor Tina Schuster also gave me the chance to instruct one class hour on my own. That was the most nerve racking part of the program for me. However I did fine and found out more about what goes into planning a lesson for the day and how to tie in past work done in class. It was a rewarding experience.

The most rewarding part of the UTA program was the interaction with my students and the breakthroughs I felt I made. To help a student achieve higher goals was the best part. The part that made me want to become a teacher.

Abstract of Presentation:

When I first started the UTA program it was to find out for myself whether or not I wanted to become a teacher. I wanted to know more about the experience. When I decided to look more into Student Centered Learning I found out that I really did want to be a teacher. To demonstrate what I mean I presented a couple of scenarios, each involving two students, A and B. Student A was a model student while B wanted to become my buddy and smooth talk his way to the answer rather than understanding the problems at hand. I immediately found working with student A fulfilling but was actually irritated with student B. After the UTA meeting focusing on Student Centered Learning I felt I could get student B to better himself in my class. I really focused on why the student was not trying to fully comprehend the work and connected with the student. This breakthrough helped me realize how much I really could enjoy becoming a teacher.

Larrison Nez

Sponsor: Dr. David Lomen
Course; MATH 323

"The best way to learn something is to teach it." My name is Larrison Nez and I was a TA for Math 223, which was taught by Dr. David Lomen, during the fall semester of 2004. Being an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant was a great experience, it gave me the opportunity to teach, and to be able to realize what my weaknesses and strengths are.

When I began the program I was still unsure as to weather or not I would pursue a career in teaching, or if it was right for me. So, I decided to apply to the UTA program. The program consisted of grading papers, holding office hours, tutoring and weekly TA meetings. The most enjoyable part of the program for me was being able to interact with students. I don.t like to see people struggling with math, and so I try to get them to understand math in way that it makes perfect sense. This was more of a challenge that I had thought.

To me, teaching is more of an art, in that you have to be able to get a sense of people so that you know how to present the material. When I would tutor a person I would try to figure out their learning style and try to adapt to it. There is also the communicative aspect of it, you have to have great communication skills, there.s nothing harder than trying to explain an abstract concept, especially a mathematical one. The weekly TA meetings were also very helpful. I was able to learn new skills, such as interpersonal skills and all the different learning types.

One of the more exciting things about the program was that I had the opportunity to give a lecture. I now have a newfound respect for teachers and how they are able to teach with such finesse. I was also able to meet with the students once a week, and help them with homework and general questions.

Overall I was I had a wonderfully experience while in the UTA program. It helped me to understand what teachers really do, which is not as easy as it may seem. I could now see myself teaching in the future, and thanks to this program I have more experience.

Abstract of Presentation:

The Myers-Biggs personality type indicator is used to help understand yourself and how you process information or the way your mind is structured. It is also useful to determine among other things, your learning style. I also did some research on how your personality type affects the way you learn, or which types more successful in school. Knowing a student.s personality type helps teachers understand where a student may be having difficulties, and cater to their learning style.

Ty Robinson

Sponsor: Dr. Larry Grove
Course: MATH 215

Experience:

After completing my experience as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant one thing has become very clear to me; there are two distinct types of people who become UTA's. The first group consists of those who have fallen in love with teaching and the second group consists of those who have fallen in love with math. I have always been, and probably always will be, a member of the second group. Quite frankly, I would be a confused disaster if it were not for Mathematics.

For those who are in love with teaching, the UTA program is the perfect opportunity for you explore the rough road that is teaching Mathematics. What of the people who simply love math? I have struggled with this question throughout this entire semester. At times I felt guilt for taking a teaching position when I really had no love for teaching. I had this lurking feeling every time I graded homework, held office hours, or tutored a student.

I suppose I was too busy worrying about my place in the UTA program to notice the change that has taken place in my mind since I began working as a teaching assistant. Looking back on my experience I see that a very valuable lesson has snuck up on me; loving math is the perfect reason to teach math. With that in mind, I have realized that being a UTA is also a perfect experience for those who simply love math.

I cannot tell you how wonderful it has been for me to help students to enjoy math in the same way that I do. I find myself telling friends that wish I could do this every semester. Since I dream of one day becoming a professor, maybe I will get to do this without end!

Presentation Abstract:

As an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant I was responsible for grading a great deal of homework. With this responsibility came the task of giving fair and constructive feedback on the homework assignments which I was grading. For this reason I chose to research what "effective" feedback actually is.

Effective feedback, according to Sergio J. Piccinin, has ten important characteristics. These characteristics are; the feedback is solicited, it is attentive and respectful, it is collaborative, it is well-timed, it is clear and direct, it is specific, it is directed at a changeable behavior, it is focused on a limited number of behaviors, it is rounded and balanced, and it provides direction for improvement. Due to a length restriction on this abstract, I will offer a discussion on those characteristics which I deem as most important.

First, attentive and respectful feedback is always well-received. If you, as a grader, give pessimistic or rude feedback you can always expect the student to ignore or disregard your statements. It is human nature to take ill-spoken feedback with hostility.

Second, as a grader it is IMPERATIVE that feedback be well-timed. What good is a graded assignment, that was returned after the test, which contains material that was covered on the exam? I cannot stress how important it is to give feedback on an assignment within one week of receiving of the assignment.

Lastly, make sure that your feedback provides direction. If the student misunderstands a given subject, then tell that student where he/she can find information on how to gain an understanding of the subject. A good way of doing this is by referencing examples that pertain to the subject at hand.

Stephanie Yandow

Sponsor: Cheryl Lacotta
Course: MATH 112

During my Spring 2003 semester, I participated in Sue Adam.s and Ann Modica.s class of Teaching in the Schools, Math 196A. I had such a great experience in that class and asked them about other opportunities for tutoring that the Math department offered. They gave me the application for Dr. Lim's program, UTA (Undergraduate Teaching Assistantships). I was completely thrilled when I researched the program more in depth. I love being able to tutor and teach students math and this offered me another opportunity to do this.

I knew that I would rather help with an Algebra class because this subject matter is my true math passion. I enjoy it and want to try to motivate others to see it less as a pain and more as a "joy", so to speak. I met with Cheryl Lacotta and she and I decided what duties I would perform during the semester for her. We decided that the bulk of my job for her would be grading. This is an excellent opportunity to help students with their math skills. Showing them where they lose track in a problem greatly helps them and reduces the risk of them making that mistake again. We also decided that I would hold a review session for her if needed or desired. These are also fun and gave me an opportunity to "teach" a group of students. Not the entire class attended, which made me less nervous about being in front of a group.

My duties as a UTA also included tutoring in the Math East building three hours a week. This was the most rewarding time because it gives you an opportunity to be one-on-one with a student and help identify their problem areas. Tutoring was my job in Sue and Ann's class, and I was happy to do it again. I also held office hours during the semester when Cheryl's students could visit me for help as well. I enjoyed helping students and learning of their improved grades after our tutoring session.

Being a UTA was a rewarding and enjoyable experience for me. I would recommend it to anyone who has a passion for teaching and helping others. It gave me great experience as well as some pocket money for the semester. I enjoyed meeting and making friends with the other UTA.s as well. Every aspect of being a UTA was memorable and fulfilling and I.m grateful for the experience that it gave me.

Presentation Summary:

My presentation included information about my duties as a UTA for the Fall 2004 semester. My primary duty was grading homework for the Math 112 class that I UTA.d for. I would receive two or three sections of homework for each class on Monday.s and would have them back to the teacher for Tuesday. I enjoyed being able to help students pinpoint their trouble-areas. I also tutored three hours a week in the Math East building. I enjoyed this very much because it allowed me to work one on one with a student. Also, I held review session for the teacher. This allowed me to focus on problems that the students were having with the test material. These three areas were my primary duties as a UTA.

Joshua Yasuda

Sponsor: Mariamma Varghese
Course: MATH 124

My UTA Experience:

This past semester has been a really exciting, learning experience. I think that there have been a lot of opportunities for me to learn about teaching and about myself. This has been a very rewarding experience and I can not say enough good things about it.

In my experience, I had to grade homework, give review sessions and tutor in the math east building. I really enjoyed grading homework because my major is math education and it allowed me to get a taste of being a math teacher. Grading homework was difficult in the beginning, but once I discovered a grading style that worked for me it became quite easy. Review sessions were a bit intimidating in the beginning, but towards the end they became a very fun aspect of the job. I enjoyed working with the students and helping them prepare for their tests. My favorite part of the job was tutoring in the math east tutor lab. It was a lot of fun being able to work one on one with other students and encounter a variety of learning styles.

All in all, I feel that this has been a great experience and one that I would gladly do over again. I particularly enjoyed the weekly meetings because they were very helpful in learning to be a better tutor and teacher. The UTA experience is a great one that hopefully many will get to encounter.

Abstract of Presentation:

My presentation included a look into the atmosphere of a classroom and creating an environment that might help motivate students to learn more. The most important point of my presentation was that the motivation begins with the teacher. It all begins with the settings and standards which you teach by. The teacher is the most important aspect to a student.s educational experience. One can find more information pertaining to my project by going to the website http://www.adm.uwaterloo.ca/infotrac/motivating.html.