Category: Faculty Awards

Math’s McFall Makes Deans’ Teaching Showcase Finals

Patrick McFall
When he’s not in the classroom in Fisher, you can find McFall canoeing on Portage Lake

College of Sciences and Arts Dean Ravindra Pandey has selected Patrick McFall as this week’s featured instructor in the Deans’ Teaching Showcase.

McFall, assistant teaching professor in the department of mathematical sciences, will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members. Recognition qualifies him as a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series.

McFall served as the Director of the Math Learning Center from 2020-2023. He co-directed the center in 2023. McFall teaches many large sections of fundamental math courses for the department, going back to spring 2021. He’s appeared in the top 10% of Michigan Tech instructors based on the “Average of 7 Dimensions” for student evaluation scores in three different semesters.

McFall’s Teaching Experience Helps Reduce DFW Rate

In the spring of 2023, McFall took on the coordinator role for MA 1160/1161 Calculus 1. He co-developed the department’s proposal to address the DFW rate for this class. McFall was instrumental in implementing the project. He piloted weekly algebra reviews, and developed pre-class videos and quizzes for a blended learning structure. McFall provided handouts for all instructors to increase student engagement. McFall met weekly with the instructors to ensure consistency in instruction. As a result, the Spring 2023 DFW rate for MA 1160/1161 showed a significant decrease from previous spring semesters. The rate for Spring 2023 declined 25-30 percentage points lower than Spring 2022 and Spring 2021. McFall’s work continued this fall, with similar results.

McFall’s Teaching Garners Praise in the College

Jiguang Sun, Chair of the Mathematical Sciences department, praised McFall. “He is enthusiastic about teaching and promotes a positive and engaging environment in the classroom. Dr. McFall cares for his students, and provides motivation for learning.”

Maria Bergstrom, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education in the College of Sciences and Arts highlighted the significance of McFall’s contributions as an outstanding instructor. “Patrick McFall’s work to reduce DFW rates in Calculus I through innovations in pedagogy and curriculum has had a tremendous impact,” she said. “The impact is not just in his department but also for undergraduate education as a whole at Michigan Tech. A solid understanding of calculus is fundamental to most of the science and engineering programs on campus. And thus student success efforts in these key courses have a ripple effect across campus. We are pleased to showcase his instructional achievements.”

About the Mathematical Sciences Department

Mathematicians at Michigan Technological University conduct research and guide students, applying concepts to fields like business, engineering, healthcare, and government. The Mathematical Sciences Department offers undergraduate and graduate programs with degrees in mathematical sciences, applied statistics, and statistics. Students supercharge their math skills at Michigan’s premier technological university. They graduate prepared for successful careers in academia, research, and tomorrow’s high-tech business environment.

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Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Beth Reed

Math09232013021Bruce Seely, Dean of the College of Sciences and Arts, has chosen to recognize Beth Reed, senior lecturer and assistant to the chair in mathematical sciences as our first Spring 2017 Dean’s Teaching Showcase member.

Seely’s nomination was influenced by Brent Baltus, a senior on the hockey team, who singled Reed at the Faculty Appreciation event during a game on December 2nd.

Baltus, a senior major in Finance who started this year with a 3.73 GPA, named Reed as “the best professor he had encountered” at Michigan Tech. Baltus had taken a couple of classes from her during his first two years in statistics and math and added she was “an unbelievable professor.”

Seely asked Reed what she does that would lead a good student (and athlete) like Brent to value her efforts. She answered with several points from the recently submitted students teaching evaluations for Fall 2016 and offered several points. Reed knows every student’s name, signaling that they are individuals to her. This makes her approachable and shows she cares about them as people. She prepares a handout for every class session containing the concepts, problems, formulas and so on covered that day. This allows students to actually listen in class rather than struggling to write everything down. Her handout adds structure to the notes taken by the students while eliminating transcription errors. Reed dedicates some class periods to worksheet days, devoted to working problems while she walks around and answers questions from students.

Finally, she asks a lot of questions of the students during class sessions. Students report this makes them pay attention (especially at 8 a.m.). When a student offers an incorrect answer, she talks them through the process until they get to the correct answer. Seely also asked Reed if there was something she did that specifically helps student athletes, who must miss classes due to travel.

In addition to her willingness to meet with them outside of class, she noted the most important thing was to ask them to introduce themselves on the first day of class. That allows her to work with them and their schedules. From this initial discussion, it is much easier to ensure Reed has a heads-up when an assignment and/or exam might conflict with games and travel. Such communication allows her and the student to work around any conflicts.

These are the kinds of effort — small steps in some respects, but large in the aggregate — that make a difference in how well students do. While a student-athlete recognized Reed’s efforts, the more important fact is that she makes these attempts for any student.

Reed will be recognized at an end-of-term luncheon with 11 other showcase members, and is now eligible for one of three new teaching awards to be given by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning this summer recognizing introductory or large class teaching, innovative teaching methods or work in curriculum and assessment.

David Olson this weeks Props for Profs Winner

image39658-persOur final Jackson CTL Props for Profs Winner for Spring 2016 is David Olson—senior lecturer in Mathematical Sciences.

Olson’s nominator emphasized that he not only makes class “fun and informative,” but that he leaves “real, helpful notes on your work.”

The nominator also found Olson’s connection to students exceptional, allowing him to “really notice when you need help.”

Perhaps most importantly, the nominator felt that Olson did an exceptional job of maintaining this strong connection well beyond when students leave his classroom.

Olson and his nominator will each receive a $5 gift certificate to purchase a snack or beverage at the Library Café or several other locations on campus.

by Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning

Dr. Piret this weeks Props for Profs winner

image111742-persThis week’s Jackson CTL Props for Profs Winner is Cécile Piret, an assistant professor in Mathematical Sciences. Piret’s anonymous nominator praised the way she went above and beyond with “many review sessions before tests and long office hours.”

Even though Piret was teaching the class for the first time, the nominator felt that she put in “a lot of effort” and perhaps more importantly “asked for student input and used that information to try to make her class better.”

Piret and her nominator will each receive a $5 gift certificate to purchase a snack or drink at the Library Café or several other locations on campus.


David House Endowed Professorship for Kui Zhang

Kui Zhang
Kui Zhang

The College of Sciences and Arts is pleased to announce the David House Endowed Professorship in Statistics, Data Mining, and Data Analytics for Kui Zhang. Professor Zhang, a new faculty member in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, is pursuing methodological developments and seeking collaborations in statistical genetics and genomics, bioinformatics, and biostatistics.

David House is one of Michigan Tech’s leading strategic supporters. As department chair Mark Gockenbach has noted, “It is gratifying that Mr. House recognizes the importance of statistics and data science in today’s world. His support has been critical in helping Michigan Tech to move forward, and I am very grateful for his latest contribution to the university.”