Math’s Alfonso Gracia-Saz honoured by Canadian Mathematical Society for teaching excellence

April 14, 2021 by A&S News

Alfonso Gracia-Saz of the Department of Mathematics in the Faculty of Arts & Science is the recipient of the 2021 Canadian Mathematical Society (CMS) Excellence in Teaching Award.

In the words of his nominators, Gracia-Saz is highly regarded for his dynamic teaching style, his attention to detail and his famous problem sets. He was also praised for his inspiring lectures and videos which have given his challenging Calculus with Proof (MAT137) course “a new level of energy — particularly significant in this recent time of pandemic challenge.”

According to his colleague, Bernardo Galvao-Sousa, Gracia-Saz “belongs to this rare breed of born teachers that possess not only the knowledge and creativity, but also the warm and dynamic personality that allows him to teach students in such a natural way that the barrier between teacher and student ceases to exist.”

Jeremy Quastel, chair of the department added: “Alfonso has very high standards and expects a strong commitment on the part of his students, but he is very generous with his time and makes it abundantly clear that he’s more than willing to offer help to anybody who needs it. The upshot has been staggeringly good course evaluations for Alfonso personally, but also very good results for the Calculus with Proof course overall.”

Peter Taylor, chair of the CMS Excellence in Teaching Award committee said that “an important reason for Alfonso’s success as a teacher of mathematics, who is exigent with his students, is the elevated standard of performance he sets for himself.  For example, his videos are remarkable, both technically and conceptually — they give you an experience that is both challenging and joyful.”

Over the past 13 years, Gracia-Saz has served as an instructor and the academic coordinator of the Canada/USA Mathcamp. His calculus YouTube channel with 200 videos has over 10,000 subscribers and well over three million views. He’s also active in mathematics outreach through competitions, math camps, science fairs and undergraduate research. 

Gracia-Saz will receive his award at the CMS 2021 summer meeting which will be held virtually in June.

The CMS Excellence in Teaching Award recognizes sustained and distinguished contributions in mathematics education at the post-secondary undergraduate level at a Canadian institution. The award was established in 2004 to recognize teaching excellence as exemplified by effectiveness in the classroom and/or commitment and dedication to teaching students.