Teaching Philosophy | James Howard Teaching Philosophy | James Howard

James Howard A Mathematician, a Different Kind of Mathematician, and a Statistician

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Teaching Philosophy

Teaching is the opportunity to share the joy and passion of the material with others who might engage it. In the classroom, my first goal is to extend to my students the intuitive understanding of the material. As students approach economics and the underlying mathematics, some are easily intimidated and retreat from participation and learning. Hands-on instruction is an effective approach for reaching that intuitive understanding, but not always practical.

I began teaching with the University of Maryland University College in undergraduate mathematics and statistics. My belief that mathematics is a fundamental life skill, on par with reading and writing, has earned me a reputation as a “math evangelist.” Working principally with online students, it is difficult to provide students the feedback necessary to support and nurture a healthy mathematical skill set. I tried several approaches to work with students settling on developing a number of custom interactive tools using Wolfram|Alpha and computable documents to use directly in our digital classroom. These provide manipulable examples of many college algebra and business mathematics concepts and encourage the intuitive understanding that comes from hands-on learning. These have been well received by both students and my fellow faculty leading me to present them at the 2014 Joint Mathematics Meeting.

At the opposite extreme, I have also taught graduate public management courses at the University of Baltimore’s MPA program and Central Michigan University’s MSA program. In my first two semesters, I used a research project, culminating in a paper where the students had to explore the financial or economic effects of a policy or program that interests them. Research-based learning is excellent for methodological instruction and this has encouraged them to understand that finances and economics underlie much policy. However, I want to take my instruction outside the classroom.

My graduate students have applied their learning to make Baltimore a better place. One semester, in a financial management class, my students started a nonprofit from scratch. Most of an organization’s startup is in financial management and accounting. For a nonprofit, the start-up phase also includes managing tax-exempt status, a nontrivial task. For many students, this service activity will be the biggest community leadership opportunity they have had. I was fortunate to have the department’s support and encouragement in this unconventional approach to teaching financial management. Another semester, in a public finance course, my students analyzed policies on nutrition and health as part of a University-wide thematic focus on food deserts in Baltimore.

In all of my classes, I like to use specific examples from the real world to connect the material to their life. In an undergraduate mathematics course, this may involve something as common as measurements for cooking, or an analysis of a baseball player, a popular topic in business mathematics. For graduate students, that may involve putting a slide from my dissertation research on the screen to show how pricing nonmarket goods can work outside of a contrived example. Regardless, my goal is to connect the students and the material through familiar applications showing the value of lifelong application.

Mathematics

I have taught undergraduate mathematics at the University of Maryland Global Campus since 2010, when it was called the University of Maryland University College. UMGC’s classes are primarily delivered via distance education, though some courses are “hybrid” including a weekly session on campus, usually at the University of Maryland, College Park. At UMGC, I routinely teach the introductory mathematics courses:

I have also taught other courses from the mathematics program:

Finally, I have taught courses from our statistics program. We are now down to just STAT 200, but we previously had an array of thematically-linked statistics classes for business, social science, and computer science:

  • STAT 200 Introduction to Statistics This is an introduction to applied statistics. Probability, t-tests, and [latex]\chi^2[/latex]-tests are introduced. Application areas are broadly selected from across many different fields. STAT-200-Spring-2020-OL4.pdf
  • STAT 230 Introductory Business Statistics This is is essentially the same as STAT 200, but the examples are drawn primarily from business settings and include production and finance problems. This class has since been discontinued in favor of STAT 200, above, as a generalized statistics course.

Public Affairs and Management

Central Michigan University

In the spring of 2017, I started occasionally teaching in the Master of Science in Administration (MSA) program at Central Michigan University. It may seem like a long commute, but my courses are taught at Joint Base Andrews, here in Maryland, through the Central Michigan Global Campus initiative. The MSA program is a degree in management focusing on technical administration, drawing on the course content common in both master of public administration and master of business administration programs. I have taught two different courses for Central Michigan.

  • MSA 600 Foundations of Research Methods in Administration This course covers the basic research process starting with the scientific method, lit reviews, data collection, analysis, through to research writing. Through this course, a student is well-prepared to design and complete a research project in a government or business setting.
  • MSA 607 Program Management in Complex Organizations This course is a unique course that looks beyond standard project management and looks at the interrelationships of projects inside large and diversified organizations.
  • MSA 647 People and Project Administration This course introduces the nontechnical side of project management. It focuses on communication, principally with stakeholders and within the project team. From this course, students should be able to manage project risk better from a personnel standpoint.

The Pennsylvania State University

In the fall of 2018, I was invited to cover a course for the Penn State master of public administration program.

  • PADM 503 Research Methods Like MSA 600 at Central Michigan, this course covers the basic research process with a specific application to public management. One interesting feature of this course is an explicit SPSS knowledge requirement.

University of Baltimore

During the spring of 2014, the University of Baltimore’s School of Public and International Affairs invited me to teach in their master of public administration program. I taught for the following three semesters and taught courses over two years from the budgeting and fiscal administration track:

  • PUAD 701 Public Administration and Public Finance This course will consider the economic impacts of governmental policies, especially at the state and local level.
  • PUAD 702 Public Financial Management A discussion of public financial management, including debt management, accounting policies, performance management, and accountability. This discussion should extend beyond the introductory graduate-level course on budgeting.

Image by Luke Jones.