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I am a recent graduate from the Math Honors program at University of Tennessee, Knoxville and I will begin my PhD in Mathematics at University of California, Santa Barbara this fall. Like many students whom I've tutored, I have not always been a successful mathematics student. In fact, it wasn't until later on in my undergraduate degree that I decided to take on a mathematics major. Choosing to make mathematics a career has changed my life and been incredibly rewarding both in my professional and personal life. Besides the basic math skills needed in live, mathematics may seem irrelevant if you aren't planning to be a mathematician or engineer, but it is such an important subject because it teaches you how to think. It helps you better understand science and think critically about complex problems. I also believe that the rigor of thought which it provides can help you in your personal life by helping you discern truth from untruth, and understand when someone's logic (including your own) may not be logical at all.

An important thing that I have realized is that mathematics is challenging and it requires work to achieve success. More importantly, even though mathematics can be difficult for myself, I have found that one of the keys in my success was to stop fearing mathematics and reassuring myself that I *can* do it. Part of the beauty of learning math (or any subject) is struggling and making mistakes and working your way through a problem by understanding. It is humbling to accept that it is okay to be wrong and trying to understand why you were wrong in the first place. Learning math has also built my own confidence and it has made me an independent learner. Having tutored a diverse group of students, I have learned that anyone can understand mathematical concepts to a reasonable level. I also encourage my students that it is okay (and highly recommended!) to seek help when it is needed. I too would not have achieved the same success if I had not sought assistance from my teachers and mentors. Mathematics does not always come quickly even to the most skilled students, but if you seek help, continue to practice, and are confident in your abilities, you will achieve success!

My first real experience tutoring students occurred in when I took multivariable calculus and linear algebra courses during undergrad. I performed very well in these courses and I wanted to help my friends and peers achieve the same success. I began leading study sessions to review for exams and many of the students improved significantly, developing the critical reasoning skills necessary for success in mathematics. I am grateful for my desire to help my colleagues improve because this experience also helped me learn the material in more depth, and I otherwise would have never realized my potential for teaching.

Since then, during my last three years at UT I was fortunate to work at the university math tutorial center, where I regularly engaged students to help them achieve success in their math courses. Providing students with a deeper understanding was incredibly rewarding and motivated me to develop new ways to build their intuition. Many students continually struggle with fundamental concepts in mathematics. I have found that one of the core causes of this issue is that rather than being challenged to think critically about mathematical problems, students instead develop methodical ways to solve the problems which rely heavily on memorization. As a tutor, I aim to help students build necessary skills to think critically about mathematical problems. My goal is to help motivate why mathematical solutions work and help students better understand how they should approach similar problems. I believe this approach to learning mathematics makes the process much less problematic---rather than feeling fearful when trying to attack problems, you begin to ask yourself "How should I think about this problem? What do I know, and how can I use this information to arrive at the conclusion?".

I have experience tutoring a broad list of subjects, including:
- algebra: Algebra I & II, college algebra, intermediate algebra
- precalculus/trigonometry
- elementary calculus: Calculus I & II, AP Calculus AB/BC
- multivariable calculus: Calculus III
- ordinary differential equations
- elementary and abstract linear algebra
- intro to proofs (set theory, induction, function theory, etc.)
- abstract algebra
- point-set topology

I have had the most experience tutoring elementary calculus, as this subject was highly requested at the math tutorial center at UT. I have also taken an honors sequence in real analysis, in which we study the theory behind calculus on a deeper level. Thus, I understand the fundamental concepts very well, and I can better determine the issues that students face when studying the subject. I also plan to be a teaching assistant for a calculus course at UCSB this fall, where I will be responsible for teaching recitation sections. Preparing for this job has helped me become a more skilled teacher of the subject.

One of my favorite courses to tutor is linear algebra. A particular issue with this course is that many lecturers teach this with a focus on nothing more than methods of solving systems of equations but fail to help students understand the underlying theory and make connections between the different topics within the broad subject. I have many practice problems and examples on-hand to help students better understand how systems of linear equations relate to matrices acting on vector spaces. I also like to provide geometric intuition for the topic to help the subject "come to life".

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Stephen’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: The University of Tennessee - Bachelor of Science, Mathematics

Graduate Degree: University of California-Santa Barbara - Doctor of Philosophy, Mathematics


Outside of academia, I love to play and experience life just as everyone else does. I may take my education seriously, but I am very easy-going and fun person. I am a huge music lover and I love going to festivals/seeing live music and dancing the night away. I enjoy spending time with friends and family, cooking, working on digital art/graphic design, and traveling. I also enjoy learning mathematics on my own time---as a mathematician in training, it is something I am very passionate about. There is always something new to discover and I love finding connections that I'd never noticed before.

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