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Teach math like you’d teach writing

Blog by Francis Su

I’m teaching my college writing course again this Fall. You might think that’s strange. As a math professor, why am I teaching writing?


My college (Harvey Mudd) is a school of science, engineering, and mathematics. Because writing is an important part of every discipline, the college shows its commitment to that idea by having every department contribute faculty to teach the college-wide writing course that every first-year student takes.


For me, teaching writing was a chance to think more deeply about how to improve my own writing. I taught this course for the first time in 2018, and as it happens, was also writing a book for the general public at the same time. The old adage “you teach what you want to learn” is really true. Every lesson I taught my students was also being put immediately into practice—the best kind of learning, for sure. The second time I taught the course in 2019, I compiled a list of parallels between the process of writing and the process of doing math.

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