Spotlight on Diane Evans, Mathematics
Video: Diane Evans, PhD,
Professor of Mathematics
Professor Diane Evans, PhD, would prefer that her students talk in class than take notes. In fact, she even hands out lecture notes at the beginning of class, to save students the trouble of writing everything down. That may sound unorthodox, but Evans believes much of the real learning comes through interaction.
"It's almost like we're having a conversation, doing examples, and filling in the gaps."
She's a big believer in real-world examples, using bottled-water taste tests and hands-on studies of M&M manufacturing defects to help students connect with tough concepts. "She would make up really off-the-wall problems for us to do in class that were really weird and entertaining, yet practical," says Steven Vitullo (EE, 2004), who now teaches at Marquette University.
Then there are the games-dice, cards, and statistical puzzles. "I'm a very visual person," says Evans. "I have to see pictures, diagrams, and have hands-on examples. I find it works well for them, too."
Apparently so, as Adri Platt (ME, 2005) says, "I think of dice all the time when I need to understand or explain probability in more detail for people without a technical background." Platt is an outsourcing program manager for Intel Corporation.
Beyond making tough concepts easier to grasp, Evans' approach sets a fun and informal tone that seems to resonate with students.
"She often started class with a funny cartoon or anecdote that would grab our attention and keep it for the entire lecture," observes Joshua Moore (ChE,2004), a post-doctoral associate at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory in Maryland. "Professor Evans always made class enjoyable by creating an environment where students were not afraid to ask questions."
With what she puts into each class, students can see that Evans is working justas hard as they are, and that makes a positive and inspirational impression. "They see that I love it, and they try to appreciate what I am showing them," she says. And that, in turn, is a source of great joy for her. "There is nothing better than talking about mathematics and statistics with students who are interested in learning the subject."