Over the years I became increasingly concerned about the students (mainly female) who never spoke a word; the students who sorely needed individual attention yet never used my office hours; the students who were heading for certain failure but were lulled into thinking they might pass the course because, as they said, "It seems so easy when you do it on the board." I began to consider on my own experiences as a mathematics undergraduate at Oxford. It shocked me to realize how well I was reproducing the same structures of power and domination which had so effectively silenced and disempowered me then.

It shocked me to realize how well I was reproducing the same structures of power and domination which had so effectively silenced me.

Reflecting on the differences between what I was doing and what I believed needed to be done, I realized that the approach I sought is one that demystifies the "doing" of mathematics; that calls attention to its cultural construction and engages students in purposeful, meaningful activity. In other words, I needed to make visible the means by which mathematical ideas come into being, and the process by which they are polished for public consumption. At the same time, to deny the institutional authority and power I possess would be profoundly dishonest. In sum, I seek to open the gates to the mathematical community by teaching students the skills they need to join the club and to operate within it.

Teaching Style

At the beginning of a course I discuss my goals with the students and make them available in written form. My main goals fall into three categories: content-specific, process, and social. Content-specific goals include helping students develop the skills necessary for constructing their own proofs of mathematical statements and writing them clearly and precisely in correct form. Process goals involve the development of independent working skills (so that they might eventually become free of the need for a teacher). Such skills include reading a mathematics text with understanding, finding, analyzing and correcting their own mistakes, and asking questions. Since mathematics is a cultural activity, social goals are also stressed. These include developing the ability to work with others by communicating ideas clearly and with confidence both orally and in writing, active listening, offering constructive criticism, and by asking and responding to questions.

I try to create a climate of safety and trust in my classroom so that risk-taking occurs; so that students are enabled to test their ideas and thoughts and so that fluency is developed in mathematical language. In other words, I build a community of mathematicians.

Following is a brief description of some of the teaching techniques I use most frequently.

Though I have not completely abandoned lectures, I use them sparingly: to introduce a new section of material; to tie new concepts in with previous material or to provide an overview of a particular topic; to conclude a topic and draw everything together; or to introduce a new concept and to motivate the assigned reading.

Think-write- pair-share
This idea is adapted from Davidson et al and is the most useful and most used of my current strategies (3). It is also the one most adaptable to classes of all sizes. Students are asked a question, or given a segment of the text to read. They work independently at first, putting their thoughts and ideas down in writing, and then form pairs to discuss. This provides support for those students who are unsure of their ideas and also has the effect of increasing participation and involving all students in the affairs of the class. This activity may precede or be part of all of those which follow.

Full class dialogue
Like a lecture, full class dialogue is teacher-directed but student-centred. Dialogue usually follows assigned reading and think-write-pair-share activity, and operates through the medium of questioning. My questions are precise, and focused on process rather than memory recall. Good active listening skills on my part are essential: I constantly demand reasons for statements, and challenge students to formulate their ideas in their own words. This is important because students are often unable to "hear" their instructor, and so teaching students to listen to and learn from each other is empowering.

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