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Meet Our Professors: Andrew Misseldine, Mathematics


Professor Andrew Misseldine teaches mathematics at SUU. He discovered in graduate school that he loved teaching. He is now able to share his knowledge of math, mainly algebra, with the students here at SUU. 

 

 

Title:
Assistant Professor of Mathematics

Department:
Mathematics

How long have you been working at SUU?
3 years

Where did you grow up?
Boise, Idaho

Where did you attend college and what did you study?
-Bachelor’s in Mathematics, minor in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science at Boise State University
-Master’s in Mathematics at Boise State University
-Doctorate in Mathematics at Brigham Young University

When and how did you decide what you wanted your career to be?
As an undergraduate, I loved studying theoretical mathematics and wanted to research in graduate school. In grad school, I had the opportunity to work as a university instructor and I discovered that I love teaching too. Becoming a professor was a natural fit after discovering these loves.

What do you feel is the most interesting thing about your field?
In the world we live in, opinions constantly change, scientific theories evolve, religious beliefs are doubted and challenged, and facts are misinterpreted, distorted, misrepresented, and sometimes simply just ignored. Amongst all this confusion, it can sometimes be difficult to decide what is actually true. In mathematics, there is no such confusion. Mathematics is able to discover truth without any doubt, confusion, or ambiguity. It can even prove when statements are not true. No, mathematics will not be the ultimate source of all truth and current mathematical research revolves around important statements that no one yet knows if they are true or false, but at least mathematics is a safe place for truth. All true statements that it has discovered we know will remain true forever. Plus, it welcomes the many more truths that will be revealed in the future.

Favorite thing to teach about your subject?
I love teaching abstract algebra (including linear algebra). Although it can be a very challenging class, that is the type of class which is most rewarding. Students are able to discover why the math we are most comfortable with is so good by exploring strange new math that they are not comfortable with.

Why do you love your field?
Mathematics is more than just crunching numbers and solving equations. Mathematics is a perspective from which we can view the world. Mathematical thinking is about seeing a problem for what it really is, that is, we focus on the essential parts and ignore all the rest which is irrelevant. I feel one of my most important jobs as a mathematics professor is to help students see math in surprising locations. In my classes, I often assign term-papers where students have to discover an application of the mathematics that we learned that semester. Students have been often pleasantly surprised when they discover math they learned in their major.

What is one thing you wish to tell every student in your class?

When my oldest daughter learned how to ride her bike, she was very scared and frustrated that she would fall down so often. I explained to her that although it looks easy to ride a bike when you watch someone who already knows how to do it well, it is very hard to learn how to balance on your bike and that falling is a natural part of learning to ride. I promised her she would fall A LOT, but if she kept working hard then she would eventually learn how to balance. This experience lead to a mantra in my family, "Falling is learning," because learning to ride a bike is just a parable of learning in general. We all fall down when we are learning, that is, we all make mistakes. If we are not falling then we are not learning. Either because we are not trying or because it is something we already know how to do. Learning comes with falling, and we must learn to become comfortable with this struggle. If we work hard, then eventually we become better and fall less often.

What do you love about SUU?
I love how close I am able to be with my students. I can get to know them and they can get to know me. I have taught at much larger universities and there is a distance between instructor and student that is difficult to get past. I feel that SUU is a place where a student can get a personal and intimate education, which is the type of education professors love to offer.