A group of firsts. From left to right, Martin Hairer, first Fields medal from Austria, Manjul Bhargava, first medal for Canada, Park Geun-hye, first female President of South Korea, Maryam Mirzakhani, first female Fields medalist and first medalist from Iran, Ingrid Daubechies, first female president of the International Mathematical Union, and Artur Avila, first medalist from Brazil (and all of Latin America).
As has been widely disseminated in all sorts of media outlets this past week, the Fields Medals were announced at the International Congress of Mathematicians on August 13. My fellow AMS blogger Brie Finegold has rounded up many of the blogs and articles on the topic in a recent blog post of her own, and I recommend this as a place to catch up with all the media buzz. A lot of (rightfully earned) attention has been given to the fact that Maryam Mirzakhani is the first woman to earn this honor. A little less attention has been paid to the fact that all of the awardees are the first in their country of origin to receive the award. It is also the first time that anyone from Latin America has won.
From the time that you finish taking courses in graduate school, until you have to evaluate other people’s teaching (for tenure and promotion, say), you could get away with not watching anyone else teach. Of course, we see talks at conferences, and maybe think about teaching quite a bit, go to workshops, etc. But it is not that hard to go through this period of your life without being in any classroom but your own. Sadly, this is also the period of your life in which your teaching is under the most scrutiny. From the moment you get hired for a postdoc or tenure-track job, you will have to prove to others that your teaching is worthy of letters in the first case, and of keeping your job (i.e. getting tenure) in the second. In any case, you are still learning how to teach, and while a lot of this is “learning by doing”, it is surprising how little we see others teaching. I have been fortunate to have had a few chances to see my peers, friends, and colleagues teach, and I wanted to share some of the lessons I learned through that, and also to encourage you, dear readers, to do the same.
Walking to the auditorium at the IMSP, in Dangbo, Benin.
“Mathematics is the queen of the sciences and number theory is the queen of mathematics.” - Carl Friederich Gauss.
This month, I had the incredible honor of teaching at a summer school on “Algebraic Number Theory and Applications” in Dangbo, Benin. It was a unique opportunity, in part because I had never taught a course like this before, but also because it gave me a chance to visit West Africa, to work with an amazing group of people, and to make new connections with a great group of African mathematicians. In this post, I will share some of my experiences (and photos!) from the trip.