Teaching in the Fall Semester as a Graduate Assistant

cbarker12

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Hi everyone,

I will begin to teach a math course in the fall semester as a Graduate Assistant in my state. Any helpful advice would be appreciative? Any recommendations on math teaching books or education books will be also helpful?

Thanks,
Cbarker12
 

Jomo

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Just teach the course. Do you know the material? Just explain everything carefully. Will you be a graduate student in education?
 

cbarker12

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No. I am not a graduate student in education...
 

Jomo

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Which course will you be teaching?
Don't worry so much, you'll do fine.
As a new Graduate Assistance you will not be given anything higher than calculus 1 or calculus 2 to teach.
The biggest recommendation for you that I have is to be prepared. If you do not see a solution immediately, then don't even try it in class. Solve it the next time. I have an incredible amount of hours teaching math and I would try to do a problem that I did not see how to do in class. Most times I do get it in the end. However as a new instructor, this will throw you off your game and make you look bad to the students. If you assign homework problem, then make sure that you can do them, in case a students asks you to solve it in class.
Again, be prepared to give the best lecture that you can give.

Expect high standards from your students as they will raise to your expectation of them! Don't worry about giving out too many low grades as you are not looking for tenure. Be available to your students, treat them with respect and let them know that you care about them.

If you have any other questions/concerns then please ask.

BTW, are you going to be PhD student in mathematics?
 

cbarker12

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I don't know which course for sure, but It could a number of courses: Immediate Algebra, Precalculus, College Algebra, Finite Math and Beginning of Calculus for Sciences and Business, and Introduction to Statistics. I will be a Master student. I hope to be a Phd student after 2023.


Cbarker12
 

Subhotosh Khan

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I don't know which course for sure, but It could a number of courses: Immediate Algebra, Precalculus, College Algebra, Finite Math and Beginning of Calculus for Sciences and Business, and Introduction to Statistics. I will be a Master student. I hope to be a Phd student after 2023.
Cbarker12
New Graduate Assistants "generally" start off with grading home-works.
 

cbarker12

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In my program, I will be doing everything as if I was the professor (from grading to making exams).
 

Jomo

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Jomo

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I don't know which course for sure, but It could a number of courses: Immediate Algebra, Precalculus, College Algebra, Finite Math and Beginning of Calculus for Sciences and Business, and Introduction to Statistics. I will be a Master student. I hope to be a Phd student after 2023.


Cbarker12
I guess this is late for you but you should always apply for the PhD program even if you know that you only want the masters degree. I had many friends who applied for a PhD program, got accepted and supported knowing that they only want to earn a masters degree. This happened while NONE of the students in the masters program were supported.
 

cbarker12

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I tried one doctorate program, but I was declined admission. One reason why I was declined is that my overall and major GPA were subpar in terms of any doctorate programs or master programs. But I emailed one of my possible graduate program in 2019 on how to get into that program. They said that I need to take GRE General. I did.
My program allows me to have tuition waiver up to 9 credits as a Master student. I get a stipend of $10,000 per year.
 

Subhotosh Khan

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That is not close to being anywhere near true.
You must be one of those voodoo tarot card reader - who can comment on the truth of experience of another life.
 

Jomo

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You must be one of those voodoo tarot card reader - who can comment on the truth of experience of another life.
What you said was simply not true for most cases. Advanced graduate students, ones who have a thesis advisor, are usually the ones who get to grade papers for their advisor in exchange for financial support. The newest students get to teach. It is like the seniority system--the more seniority you have the better job you get.
 

Jomo

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I tried one doctorate program, but I was declined admission. One reason why I was declined is that my overall and major GPA were subpar in terms of any doctorate programs or master programs. But I emailed one of my possible graduate program in 2019 on how to get into that program. They said that I need to take GRE General. I did.
My program allows me to have tuition waiver up to 9 credits as a Master student. I get a stipend of $10,000 per year.
You get $10,000 for teaching one course per semester?
 

lookagain

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I will begin to teach a math course in the fall semester as a Graduate Assistant in my state.
As a graduate assistant where I tried it for a semester, we did not "teach." We were
going over homework questions in class and making up quizzes to help the students
prepare for their exams when all of them would meet with the professor in the lecture hall. We were there to reinforce the material that the professor had supposedly taught.

For my part, I found it too exhausting and stressful for the one hour 10 minutes each way drive combined with walking to the math department, meet with three sections
of 30 students each out of a total of six sections shared among three graduate students, and attend five graduate classes. The experiment did not last.
 
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cbarker12

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You get $10,000 for teaching one course per semester?
My stipend will be given to me every 2 weeks per month of each semester. I.e. I will get $5,000 for 1st semester.
I would be teaching several sections of one course...
 

Davey Jones

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The problem with most graduate assistants is they're great at math, but have little or no idea on how to actually teach. There's this huge misconception that being good at a subject automatically makes someone qualified to teach said subject. Nothing could be further from the truth. Doing math and teaching math are two very distinct skill sets (not mutually exclusive, obviously).

The biggest problem graduate students have with teaching undergraduate math is not being able to comprehend "not understanding math." What's obvious to you will not be obvious to them. Not all students learn the same way. The way you were taught may not be the best way to teach.

The lower level classes most likely will be populated by students who are not mathematically inclined. Teaching under the assumption that they all are will just lead to disaster for the majority of them. But don't misunderstand me: know your learning objectives, and have your standards. The trick to teaching these classes is to have a certain level of expectations, but be prepared to reach down to students below that, and work to elevate them. If all you do is fly over their heads, and never swoop down to help them fly higher, then the students in your class are wasting their time and money.

Frankly, I think it's unfair to relegate the teaching of lower level courses to graduate students as a necessary part of their scholarship/fellowship/etc.. It's asking many graduate students to do a job they haven't been trained to do, and for many undergraduate students to spend their time and/or money for a service being offered by an untrained professional.

I'm not saying graduate students can't be good teachers. I've seen some great teaching done by them. But I've seen far more try to teach it as if their students were math majors when they majority of them were far from it.

You want some advice for teaching this level of math? Instigate dialogue in the class. Monologue is very boring, and turns students off, which is counterproductive to your goal of educating them. If students wanted to just listen to someone talking for 45 minutes, 50 minutes, 75 minutes, whatever, they can just search YouTube for math help. If all you do is talk for the entire time, students are using their ears (maybe) and eyes (maybe) as sensory receptors. But if there is dialogue, then students must produce to participate, using much more of their brain. This increases the chance of retention.

This leads to the question of how to instigate dialogue. The answer is the question, literally. Ask questions. And I don't just mean "Does anyone have any questions?" or "Do you agree?" or "Is this right?" or "What is 2+2?" (or any other math problem with a short answer). Short answer questions get minimal involvement on behalf of the student. The types of questions I'm talking about are more open ended and require a more in-depth reply. Any question starting with "Why" or "How" usually is good.

Another thing you should establish early is for students to not be afraid to give wrong answers. There is always something to be gained from a wrong answer. If you ask the student to explain an answer, it let's you get into their heads to see how they think, and as importantly, where they are misunderstanding something. Identify that gap, address it, and it not only benefits that student, but the whole class (because who knows how many other students were making the same mistake).

The crazy thing is, at the same time, you also have to be aware of how much you need to cover in a given day, and keeping the class on pace to get there. It's a tricky balancing game, but one that becomes more intuitive as you teach more and more.

Another thing to consider is this: do you want to tell them in advance what they will be learning that day? Many, MANY teachers start the class by writing a list of learning outcomes on the board, a sort of laundry list of things they will earn today. I always have such a list, but I never start the class that way. Why? Because nothing motivates it. I always start by posing some problem we want to try to solve, whether it's an applied problem or a theoretical problem. That problem motivates the math. Of course, you should know the path towards the solution (or rather, a path, as there is often more than one). Guide your students from beginning to end, allowing THEM to develop the math as much as possible. Well-worded questions can guide them down the path to discovery.

Not every student will like this. Many want you to just tell them what to do and how to do it. But guess who takes ownership of that knowledge when it's forced down their throats? No one.

But, if they build it, if they discover it, if they summarize it, then guess who owns it now? Every student involved. I even name rules, formulas, theorems after students who verbalize them (even if it seems trivial to me). Because that brings them in, and they want more.

I tell my students on day one that some of them are not going to like how I run my classes, because I don't just tell them what they are expected to learn at the start of each class. But I guarantee them that by the end of class, they'll know exactly what they are expected to know. Some students don't like the fact that I ask more questions than make statements. But I always make sure at the end, things are tied up in a neat little package: what you learned, rules, formulas, whatever.

It takes a while to internalize the art of teaching by asking questions. I was lucky. Between undergraduate school and graduate school, I worked for three years with a company that taught math to public school kids by asking questions. For three years, I wrote daily lesson plans that were nothing but questions. I never used it as a script during class, but it helped me prepare mentally for how to teach by questioning. And 25 years later, it's still my go-to approach in class (although I don't need to plan nearly as much in advance; most of it just comes naturally). Want to practice? Pick a topic you'll cover in the first week of whatever class you are teaching. Figure out what you want them to learn by the end. Start with a sample problem. Then try to come up with a question sequence that will lead them down the right path. Anticipate wrong answers, and how to get them to see their errors. Ask, ask, ask. (I should admit that yes, sometimes you have to step in and tell them something. After all, you are on a time constraint.) Make your classroom alive with dialogue as much as possible.

I've had many colleagues tell me this is a waste of my time in the classroom, that it's quicker and easier to just tell them what to do. And they are right about that: its quicker, and it's easier. But that places emphasis on quantity over quality. You need to ask yourself what is more important: rushing to cover topics A, B and C in a fixed time interval, or investing more time to have a higher quality class experience at the risk of falling behind? I always choose quality over quantity. If towards the end of the term, I see time is running out, then I will default to standard monologue for the sake of time. But I will always choose quality first.

Ok, this was much longer than I initially planned. But I'm just a tad passionate about teaching college and university students. To take students who are convinced they can't do math well (and trust me, in your lower level classes, that will be the majority of them), and have them confidently do that math at the end of the semester, makes it all worthwhile.

Unless you are my graduate school advisor, who told me I was an idiot for focusing on teaching so much. Great mathematician, sucked at teaching. To each their own.
 

Dr.Peterson

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Hi everyone,

I will begin to teach a math course in the fall semester as a Graduate Assistant in my state. Any helpful advice would be appreciative? Any recommendations on math teaching books or education books will be also helpful?

Thanks,
Cbarker12
Here is a book you may find helpful: How to Teach Mathematics. The link will take you to a section on graduate teaching assistants (which includes some indication about how much that role can vary). I read an older edition of the book long ago, and found some good ideas in it.
 
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