I help students understand a subject which is usually and unfortunately taught as a body of facts to be memorized and not as a dynamic field of study that requires comprehensive understanding.
Greg Adams has been teaching mathematics at Bucknell for more than 20 years, but he still remembers what it feels like to be intimidated by a math class as a college freshman.
"I remember being intimidated by the idea of calculus in the summer before my first year of college," he says. "I had heard how difficult calculus was — the rumor was that no mortal could understand it." But, Adams says, he had an inspiring professor who was able to lift the curtain behind the mystery and demonstrate that the ideas of calculus are based on simple ideas.
"I enjoy how mathematics always finds a way to take the most complex of situations and find order by imposing a simple principle," he says. "To me, when mathematics is at its best, it feels as if one had tossed a jigsaw puzzle up in the air in a wind storm and it landed all put together."
The fruits of an academic career in mathematics are found, Adams says, in his experiences both in his research and in the classroom. He has spent the last 15 years collaborating with fellow Professor of Mathematics Paul McGuire on operator theory, a type of functional analysis that studies the transformations between algebraic vectors. "When I do research like this I get to remain a student, and Bucknell provides me with the academic freedom to follow my curiosity as I contemplate various problems," says Adams.
As for his work in the classroom, Adams is enthusiastic about his role as a teacher. "Teaching young people is a privilege. I enjoy my research, but am certain the most profound impact of my career will be found in the sparks I've had the fortune to ignite in my students."
He says one of his objectives is to help his students grasp the principles of mathematics and see deeper into the subject. He strives to help his students realize that they can understand the ideas that have been passed along, built upon and refined since the days of the ancients.
"I help students understand a subject which is usually and unfortunately taught as a body of facts to be memorized and not as a dynamic field of study that requires comprehensive understanding," he says. "It's a challenge, but I can't imagine a more enjoyable profession."
Posted October 2012
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