It isn’t common to hear roars of laughter coming from a pure mathematics lecture hall. That is, unless Ross Willard is teaching. It's one of the reasons he was honoured with a distinction in teaching by the Faculty of Mathematics.
According to his students, taking a class with Professor Willard all but ensures you’ll understand the course material/subject. His lectures are the ideal combination of review, new information, and discussion – carefully paced to allow concepts to sink in. Most importantly though, his energy keeps students engaged the entire lecture.
From well-timed remarks and sarcastic comments about university life to full-on math jokes, Willard uses humour to engage students with material. “With Ross, it feels like we are doing math for the fun of it,” says one student. “There is very little pressure attached, and I feel like this is an approach to math we can all benefit from.”
Ross has taught a wide range of courses, including core mathematics at both the regular and advanced levels, pure mathematics undergraduate courses for majors and non-majors, and graduate level courses. Lectures large or small, he ensures each student feels welcome and comfortable in the classroom. Math 135 (Algebra for Honours Mathematics) is a notoriously large class, yet he actively tries to remember the names of his students.
Willard’s students feel like he cares about their success beyond his classroom. He extends office hours, provides extra/supplementary texts and problem sets, changes proofs to be more useful than those in the textbook.
In his nomination letter, Professor Kathryn Hare stated: “There can be no doubt that Prof. Ross Willard is one of this Faculty’s finest teachers.” Course evaluations show that this is a common sentiment.
The Faculty of Mathematics is fortunate to have such a passionate teacher to enrich students’ learning experiences with. Willard’s joy in mathematics is obvious, the way he presents it makes it contagious.