What I Teach

Roger Gans
2013 NYSCA Conference “Best Paper” Award

This section of the website focuses on the subjects I teach. As I build it out, the sub-sections will include the most recent syllabus for each course along with other thoughts, hints and resources that might interest a student of that subject, matriculated or not.

Like each course I teach, this section is a work in progress. I’m always revising things based on new findings, and I tend to incorporate each shiny new idea I come across.

How I Teach

My teaching methodology is a work in progress also. Teaching is, after all, a form of communication, and to me that means an endless feedback loop.  Over time, my tendency to over-prepare for each class has been counter-balanced by the need to stimulate learning and engagement.  My teaching philosophy can be summed up in a simple Zen saying:

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

I figure my real job is getting my students ready to learn.

I was raised in an era of rote learning, so I was drilled to know my times tables up to 12 by 12. I can also give you 13 x 13 and 15 x 15 without a moment’s hesitation, but for some reason 14 x 14 requires me to stop and figure it out (“10 times 14 is 140… 4 times 10 is 40… okay that’s 180 so far… and 4 times 4 is 16, which adds up to 196”).

My lesson plans incorporate both of these kinds of thinking and learning.

Who I Teach

In a world that has seemed to embrace the concepts of System 1 and System 2 cognitive processing (see Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow) most teaching seems to focus on System 2.

For those of you who may not be familiar with this stuff, System 1 is your brain on Auto Pilot.

System 1 uses mental shortcuts to help you navigate through the drudgery of quotidian life while your conscious mind is thinking about more pleasant things. System 1 is what keeps you safely in your lane on the highway but also sometimes lets you miss your exit. System 1 is the part of you that learns the times tables.

System 2 is your conscious, calculating self. System 2 is what figures out how much is 14 x 14.

As humans, we use System 1 for about 95% of our decisions and actions. Some researchers believe most of our System 2 work is devoted to inventing plausible reasons for the things we decided and did using System 1.

I try to address my lessons to System 1 as well as System 2.

Communication with Purpose