Few universities recognize explicitly in the design of their graduate mathematics programs that the future careers of most of their doctoral students will be devoted primarily to undergraduate teaching. Few if any mathematics graduate programs attempt to familiarize graduate students with important curricular and policy issues of undergraduate education. Few graduate assistants undergo systematic training to prepare them for their lifelong role as teachers. (NRC, 1991b, p. 27)

It is important that all students, especially future educators, have the opportunity to receive instruction on how to teach and to have supervised experience in teaching.

The Department … will develop a seminar for third and fourth year PhD students on [what is involved in] becoming a college professor.

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Departments and programs should assure that their graduate students receive instruction in teaching methods, with assessment and feedback on teaching performance and, if possible, with a progression of increasingly advanced teaching experiences including significant in-class teaching. (AAU, 1990, p. 4)


Professional mathematicians also need communication skills for non-classroom settings, skills such as how to conduct seminars, give professional talks, interact with people working in other sciences and in engineering, and communicate mathematical ideas and results to others in applied/industrial teams. Having students conduct their own seminars is a useful tool for helping them learn how to give professional talks.

One feature of the department's offerings is a course fondly termed the “torture chamber.” This experience, required of every student, is designed to prepare the student to give polished professional talks in her/his field. Faculty provide criticism (considered constructive by the students) and encouragement, and students talked about it with a mixture of dread and admiration.

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Not everyone is gifted with natural communication skills, but practice and work can lead to improved skills. As much or more than colleagues working in academia, mathematical scientists working in industry need to know how to communicate their knowledge and discoveries.

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