Connections Past Issues

Why I Teach

Heather Lewis, Ph.D.

Professor of Mathematics

As a math teacher, I do a certain amount of practical instructing, showing students already-established ways of answering questions. How much does a $500 credit card purchase really cost if you only make the minimum payments? How do you measure miniscule changes in a function? How much does Godzilla weigh?

But another part of teaching is the opportunity to share facts that may come as a surprise to the students (Did you know that Egyptians multiplied numbers 4,000 years ago in a way that was completely different from today?) or even myself (The floor of the Sistine Chapel is covered in fractals!) and the chance to ask questions that may have no clear answers (What would happen if you multiplied shapes instead of numbers? What would that even mean?).

And it is in these questions and discoveries that I find some of the most excitement in teaching. When students come back and say, “I was thinking about class, and I wondered if that fact could be done this other way” or “I saw this really cool math idea” or even “I wrote a piece of music that has mathematical symmetry,” I am reminded yet again of how much I love this job.

Heather Lewis

Heather Lewis and her son in Egypt —where people once multiplied numbers in a completely different way.