Graduate teaching assistants in the Mathematics Department typically teach their own course, rather than simply grading papers or running recitation sections. This teaching usually begins with the lowest level courses, but as students gain more experience they have the opportunity to teach more advanced courses. The department is a national leader in curriculum reform and is constantly developing new courses and new approaches to teaching the standard ones. Thus graduate students are an integral part of an exciting teaching environment.
Graduate students also have the opportunity to be involved in teaching at the graduate level. Each first-year graduate course has a “super-TA”. The role of the super-TA varies, but a typical role would be to run a problem session for the graduate students taking the course. Just before graduate students begin their first year courses, they have the opportunity to participate in an intensive week-long review of advanced undergraduate material. Several advanced graduate students play an important role in running this workshop. Each summer advanced graduate students help the students who are preparing for qualifying exams.
As a result, graduating students who intend to pursue academic careers can have an extensive teaching portfolio by the time they graduate — an invaluable part of their future job applications.
Information about TA Training in Math Department
New GTAs in the Math Department are required to complete pre-semester training and attend a year-long course about teaching mathematics. GTAs are also mandated to complete the University's Teaching Assistant/Associate Training Online (TATO).
The Math Department pre-semester training entails three days of sessions on topics such as classroom dynamics, classroom preparation, writing policies, grading, student issues, and creating a positive classroom environment. In addition, there are opportunities for the GTAs to do practice presentations with a small group of peers and an experienced instructor, and to give and receive feedback on these presentations. GTAs are also assigned readings in our Department Resource Book to help them become familiar with department policies and procedures relating to teaching, and are given the opportunity to address any questions and concerns. The training concludes with a Q & A session with a panel of current graduate students and administrators. This provides a time for our new GTAs to interact in a structured format with experienced GTAs and to gather insight and information from their peers.
In order to provide continuous support for our GTAs during their first year of teaching, all new GTAs must register for the 1-unit course Professional Development Workshop in Teaching Mathematics (MATH 597T). Through the use of readings, writings, and discussion, GTAs are asked to reflect on teaching as a skill and about themselves as teachers. Each class also includes a discussion of issues that have arisen in the GTAs classrooms. Over the course of the year, GTAs are required to do classroom observations of peers and experienced instructors, and to have their own class videotaped and critiqued.
Every semester throughout their teaching career in the Math Department, GTAs are assigned a supervisor, an experienced instructor who serves as a teaching mentor as well as a source for information about course content and logistics. Supervisors review and approve all written course materials and exams, observe classroom teaching, provide feedback to the GTA, and approve final grades.