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From a Love of Math to a Love of Teaching Math

Photo by Alyssa Lyman

Sharon Christensen always liked math, and she enjoyed helping others with math.

“Growing up, I always had friends that I would help with math,” Christensen said. “Then I started teaching mathematics, and I wanted to know about how people learn mathematics so that I can be a better mathematics teacher.”

Christensen, who is teaching for a second year in the Department of Mathematics Education, is passionate about how students learn math and imparting that knowledge to her students.

“One of the things that I love about math education is helping students deepen their own mathematics but also thinking about the impact that they’ll have on students and helping them realize what a difference they’ll make in students’ lives,” she said.

Christensen received her bachelor’s degree in mathematics education from BYU and then taught for 18 years before coming back to pursue her master’s degree in mathematics education. The experiences that she had while teaching seventh, eighth, and ninth grade inspired her to go back to BYU, and again, become a better mathematics teacher.

For Christensen, coming back to BYU felt like coming home, having spent her undergraduate and graduate years here.

“It’s nice coming back because I knew many of the professors and had participated in research projects with them while I was teaching in the classroom,” Christensen said. “It was very comfortable, and I enjoy working with them.”

Beyond familiarity, Christensen came back to BYU because of the opportunity to incorporate the Gospel into learning mathematics education.

“I love having the Gospel aspect as part of it,” Christensen said. “It’s not something that I thought about as much as a student here, but actually having been in public education, and then coming back and being able to start class with a prayer and be able to talk about religious topics while we’re doing mathematics—it’s really fun.”

Christensen is excited to work with her students and discover the different approaches they have to teaching math.

“Some students have different ideas, but a lot of them are just coming in and wanting to learn whatever you have to offer so that they can be the best teacher that they can be as well,” Christensen said. “You get exposed to different strategies and learn new things, but most of them are like: Let’s find out what works.”

At the end of the day, Christensen’s students want to share their passion for math with others just like she does with them; they want to mentor others just like she mentors them.

“Math has been something that they’ve enjoyed and so they want to share that with students and be able to help them learn and understand and develop that excitement as well,” Christensen said.