On August 23rd, the Applied Math Department’s first-year graduate students were busy learning and preparing for their new TA positions. During the meeting, each new TA presented a previously prepared and practiced five-minute mini-lecture to their fellow first-year graduate students.
The topics presented covered trigonometry (how to use SOH CAH TOA, and constructing the Unit Circle), calculus (Delta-Epsilon definition of a limit, L’Hospital’s Rule, Chain Rule, and the Quotient Rule), and physics (analyzing projectile motion using integrals).
Every presenter was given compliments and criticisms from the other first-years about their lecture. Many comments centered on increasing student engagement and focus, how to be comfortable when speaking in front of others, and how to properly interact with students. Other comments emphasized the importance of using different examples, giving thorough explanations, and using language that won’t undermine the confidence of some students (for example, some new TAs were advised not to say in lecture, “we all know that...” as to not make some students feel behind in the class). Another heavily emphasized comment was about making sure the new TAs have good board-work. A lot of planning goes into organizing the lecture and board such that all necessary information remains on the board at once, while still writing/drawing large enough for everyone to see without running out of space. Every mini-lecture was video-taped so the first-years could compliment and criticize their own presentation and see how to fix any other mistakes they may have made.
After the meeting, Joe Castagneri, who can be seen above lecturing on the Delta-Epsilon definition of a limit, was interviewed. Castagneri is in his final year of the BS/MS Applied Math program, and this will be his first year as a TA. During the interview, Castagneri said he found the meeting very helpful, and jokingly remarked that the best way to prepare for presenting a topic and not being nervous during the presentation, is by presenting to a room of people that know exactly what you’re talking about and could easily catch your mistakes. Currently, Castagneri is working towards his BS/MS in Applied Math with interests in statistics, numerical analysis, and especially in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. He grew up near campus and has been very happy with the decision to pursue his studies at CU Boulder’s Applied Math Department. If you are attending a calculus 1 or 2 recitation, you might see him there!