Walter Elder

Pittsburgh General Education Adjunct Faculty Walter Elder

To develop a complete mind: study the science in art; study the art of science. Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else. Walter Elder , Math Instructor , The Art Institute of Pittsburgh

Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

I had a bachelor’s degree but no formal teacher training when I was offered a temporary teaching position at a technical school. After a couple of years, I decided to devote myself to a career in education.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?

Rather than using the traditional instructional approach to teaching math, which involves abstract thinking, I present concepts and skills within the context of relevant, real-world scenarios. Instead of relying on traditional textbooks, I use my background as a former curriculum developer for an innovative educational software company to connect coursework to nature, art, architecture, and other human-related topics.

What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

Many of my students come to class lacking confidence in their math abilities, so I develop a sequence of assignments with that in mind. It takes time, and it’s important to carefully increase the level of difficulty so students don’t feel overwhelmed.

How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?

Regular opportunities for learner-centered, cooperative activities let students see mathematics from their peers’ perspectives. And when students help others with the material, they actually gain a deeper understanding themselves in the process.

I like to use quotes from artists and other famous people. For example...

"To develop a complete mind: study the science of art; study the art of science. Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else." - Leonardo Di Vinci

What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

I try to impart an appreciation of mathematics. Many students see math as meaningless, so I try to put it in a relevant context.