Educational Philosophy - Student Goals and My Approach

The two decades that I have spent as a student, teacher and tutor
of Mathematics and Physics have shaped my educational philosophy.
Here are some of the fundamental ideas behind my teaching:

Student Goals: Confidence, Competence, Comprehension


In my experience, one of the fundamental obstacles to learning is the fear of making mistakes. I implore my students to see mistakes not as failures, but as essential steps in the learning process. When a student relaxes and learns to analyze his or her own mistakes constructively and without self-criticism, this anxiety can be gradually overcome.

My approach is to remind students how much they already know and to reinforce that knowledge before continuing on to new material. I feel this increases students' confidence by cementing their understanding of essential earlier topics and presenting new ideas as natural extensions of what they already know.


In today's educational discourse there is a lot of concern about assigning students too many repetitive drills. However, the opposite extreme has its own pitfalls; students need sufficient practice in the fundamentals of arithmetic and algebra in order to reach the level of competence required to move on to more advanced topics. With my advanced students, I try to push them beyond their comfort level and challenge them to become better versed in the fundamentals so as not to become complacent.


Many students learn Math and Physics on a topic-by-topic approach, forgetting the majority of what they have learned soon after the required test or quiz. In many cases this is because they are experiencing the subject as a set of unrelated topics, rather than a unified body of knowledge. True comprehension requires students to understand the context of what they are learning in terms of how it builds on past topics, how the current topic is applicable to real-world problems, and how it will lead to new questions and topics of future learning.

My Approach: Patience, Enthusiasm, Humor


Learning is rarely a straightforward and easy process. It takes time, effort, and often struggle before we learn and master something new. I strive to make my students comfortable during this process, emphasizing the importance of allowing ourselves to make mistakes along the way. Since we often learn the most from our mistakes, it is essential that my students are comfortable exploring their own ideas, whether or not they are always correct, so that their understanding and abilities can improve.


I would not devote my life to teaching Math and Physics if I didn't find these topics so interesting! While the pressure of a required course can sometimes overshadow the relevance of the material, Math and Physics are applicable to and explain so much of the everyday world around us. To avoid new ideas seeming abstract or unnecessary, I provide tangible examples of how they are used or needed to solve problems in the real world. I cannot help but share my enthusiasm about how much better we can understand the world if we understand the Math and Physics behind it.


The greatest thing I have learned over the years is not to take myself too seriously. Studying challenging and sometimes very abstract material can be very focused and intense - why not lighten the mood with a laugh from time to time?