Travis Ortogero

Math DepartmentSwayne Preceptorship
According to Travis, the best and most fun way to learn just about anything is to solve puzzles.

Describe your teaching style.

Do you like puzzles? I try to carefully set up each class in such a way that there’s at least one puzzle that students have to figure out. I will rarely just tell a class how to do anything because I believe in their ability to figure things out on their own with only a bit of guidance on my part. Once they’ve figured out the basics of a topic, I like to push their presumptions as far as the class allows it, so that they are forced to really work with what they’ve learned, or to question what they thought was “how it is.”

Occasionally I will wax philosophical about what we’re discussing, but I am pushing always, consistently to get my students to think. I happen to use math to accomplish this, though I occasionally use humor as well.

What is your classroom environment like?

In my class—as in other classes—I work hard to create an environment where students are allowed to “get things wrong” without embarrassment or humiliation. I try to foster a sense that they’re all in it together and that getting everyone to understand what’s being discussed helps all, even the people who think they already know anything I might say. I especially enjoy seeing students when they get insight into a challenging problem and the glow with which they explain what they came up with to the rest of the class.

To get that kind of environment, a lot of work has to get done behind the scenes. If it seems like something comes off easy, it’s because a lot of effort was put in beforehand to make it look that way.

More about Travis:

Travis earned a BS and ME from Cornell University. He likes playing and designing games and game systems (and incorporating what he learns in his courses), so it’s natural that he is the sponsor of the Tabletop Club, whose members play board games and role-playing games.