Recognising and celebrating our award-winning teachers – and the methods and approaches behind their award-winning practice.

Dr Christian Thomas teaches in the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences in the Faculty of Science and Engineering. In his words, changing the perception that mathematics is ‘dull’ to that of a subject that brings wonder is a challenge that he has completely integrated into his teaching. By flipping his classroom and transforming the learning experience with short videos, engaging resources – and a lot of enthusiasm – Christian has turned things around for many of his students.

To be perfectly honest Christian is the best mathematics teacher I have ever had. He never failed to make increasingly difficult concepts seem manageable through his enthusiastic and insightful teaching style.

Macquarie student

In 2022, Christian won a Vice Chancellor’s Learning and Teaching Student Nominated Award.

Here he shares his advice for engaging students in challenging topics and increasing participation in learning activities.

What’s your advice for teachers thinking about how to engage students in challenging topics or disciplines?

Many students arrive at university hating mathematics or complain they are terrible at it. However, mathematics is fundamental to STEM research and develops crucial employability skills. Changing the perception that mathematics is dull to a subject that can bring wonder is a challenge that I have integrated into my teaching. My teaching philosophy utilises well-designed lecture materials, enthusiasm for the subject, and engagement and application through multiple resources. 

I’ve always struggled with maths and the way in which you presented it made it much more accessible than I’ve ever had it taught to me and it finally gave me some confidence in my own ability. Not to mention that it finally made me enjoy maths instead of viewing it as a hill to climb. No other subject I’ve done has been this well adapted to the online teaching format.

Macquarie student

Graduating mathematicians require problem-solving and communication skills and the ability to apply mathematics to real-world problems. I designed MATH2110 to develop fundamental employment skills, enabling students to formulate, analyse, and communicate mathematical models of complex physical systems.

I guide students in research-based projects, including relevant infectious disease and population modelling (and fun zombie apocalypse scenarios) that motivate students to work collaboratively and pursue individual research interests. 

The project topics were awesome (especially the zombie apocalypse one). It’s been the most enjoyable maths assignment I’ve ever done

MATH2110 with Christian was the first time I have gotten a glimpse into what I could potentially do with my degree.

Macquarie students

Your application discussed how you flipped your classroom to encourage (very) active participation. What are some of your flips?

I have fostered student engagement by embracing both asynchronous and synchronous approaches to student learning using a flipped classroom style delivery.

I achieved this via weekly bite-sized videos and interactive (on-campus and online) classes. My teaching approach transformed the learning experience of the MATH1010 cohort; students found shorter videos engaging and an excellent resource for online learning.

I LOVED turning up to his lectures and I always knew I would learn something new!

Macquarie student

During live lectures, I contextualised complex concepts using the computer platform MATLAB and enabled student participation. As a collaborative exercise, I encouraged students to volunteer numbers for problems we would solve together.

My engaged MATH1010 students initiated the novel approach of holding up numbered placards. I felt like a contestant on Dancing with the Stars but with the occasional negative number… 

I also made sure I engaged with both on-campus and online cohorts during live lectures to ensure all students benefited from my enthusiastic approach to teaching.

Christian created a fun and active learning environment that encouraged students to follow along and help with example questions during lectures.

Macquarie student

It has been very eye opening and enjoyable for me. Best thing I’ve done as an undergrad!

Christian was also interviewed for this article in Macquarie’s The Lighthouse

Interested in applying for a Vice Chancellor’s Learning and Teaching Award in 2023?

Visit our Awards in Teaching webpage for application dates and details.

Acknowledgments: Banner image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay. Post compiled and edited by Karina Luzia

Posted by Teche Editor

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