2002 Status Report on Project NExTMAC

In the 2001 Endowment Grants competition, we were awarded $5,000 in support of Project NExTMAC (New Experiences in Teaching Mathematics Across Canada). This new professional development initiative is designed to provide junior mathematics and statistics faculty, many of whom do not have a wealth of teaching experience, with information and resources that will enable them to become better and more effective teachers of mathematics and statistics.

Central to the project is an annual professional development workshop, timed to coincide with the annual summer meeting of the Canadian Mathematical Society. At such workshops, junior faculty come together in a safe and non-critical environment in which they can freely discuss and share ideas regarding pedagogical issues related to teaching mathematics and statistics at the university level.

Since activities and responsibilities that are not directly tied to teaching can have profound effects on teaching effectiveness, we also address other issues that impact on the overall success and well-being of junior faculty. These can include avoiding taking on too many academic service commitments, struggling to establish and maintain a research program, coping with academic politics, protecting one's personal time from being overwhelmed by professional duties, and other issues that junior faculty face as they make the adjustment from being graduate students to being university faculty.

With issues such as these in mind, we held a one-day workshop on June 14, 2002, at l'Universite Laval (the day prior to the 2002 CMS Summer Meeting). After being greeted by the workshop organisers as well as CMS President Jonathan Borwein (SFU) and CMS President-Elect Christiane Rousseau (Montreal), several sessions took place as follows:

  • Kathryn Hare (Waterloo), Ortrud Oellermann (Winnipeg), and Robert van den Hoogen (STFX) led a panel discussion on balancing career with personal and family life
  • Tom Archibald (Acadia), Lee Keener (UNBC), and Keith Taylor (Saskatchewan) led a panel discussion on aspects of the tenure and promotion process
  • Edward Barbeau (Toronto) gave a presentation on being a compleat teacher
  • Michael Barr (McGill), Catherine Podeszfinski (NSERC), Thomas Ransford (Laval), and Serge Villemure (NSERC) spoke about NSERC and applying for research grants
  • Grace Orzech (Queen's) and Morris Orzech (Queen's) facilitated a session on the topic of getting to know one's students

In addition to the workshop presentations and discussions, the 9 participants who attended were provided with printed resources, including copies of the following books:

  • "Advice for New Faculty Members" by Robert Boice
  • "How to Teach Mathematics" (2nd edition), by Steven Krantz
  • "A Primer of Mathematical Writing" by Steven Krantz

The speakers at the workshop were also provided with these resources so that they could share them with colleagues at their home institutions.

During the lunchtime break, the workshop participants went as a group to eat together. This provided a good opportunity for the participants to interact and get to know each other better, as well as to engage in less formally structured dialogue with one another.

At the end of the day, an evaluation form was administered, on which we solicited feedback and suggestions. In additional to receiving several positive comments from the participants, all 8 of those who gave us written feedback expressed interest in attending future workshops.

Of the original $5,000 awarded to us, $2,162.26 remains unspent. Likewise, we still have on hand 14 copies of the book by Boice, and 18 copies of each of the two books by Krantz. We are now working on holding a 1 or 2-day workshop in Edmonton, immediately prior to the 2003 CMS Summer Meeting, and so we propose to carry forward these remaining assets.

We would also like to note that our efforts at obtaining additional funding that would allow us to provide meaningful reimbursement for the travel expenses incurred by the workshop participants (who, as junior faculty, may not have yet received grants that would pay for their travel to events such as a CMS meeting) have so far not been successful. However, we are continuing to seek possible sources of such funding.

In addition to the support received from the CMS Endowment Fund, we are grateful to Pearson Education for donating 35 copies of Boice's book, and also to the American Mathematical Society for offering a substantial discount on the cost of the books by Krantz. We also wish to express thanks to the organisers of the CMS Meeting, both at l'Universite Laval and at the CMS, for making arrangements to provide space and refreshments at no charge.

Lastly, allow us to mention the website for our project:

David Pike (Memorial) and Robert van den Hoogen (STFX)
[received September 11, 2002]