Pandemic Learning, One Year Later: Al Letarte, Math

Al Letarte’s college-level classes build on the long Commonwealth tradition of encouraging students to explore advanced mathematical theories and applications. Mr. Letarte confidently states: “Whatever mathematics courses a student is ready for and interested in, we can offer. We have that ability.” Indeed, he has taught such electives as Medieval Islamic Mathematics; Mathematical Logic; and Abstract Algebra: Groups, Rings, and Fields. His students revel in pushing beyond their understanding and discovering novel mathematical approaches. 

While he is looking forward to returning to fully in-person learning, Mr. Letarte continued to engage his students throughout the pandemic. As you will read below, it is his students’ enthusiasm that inspires his work.

What do you love most about teaching at Commonwealth?

What I love most is the feeling I get, when working with Commonwealth's students, that they are full partners in our intellectual enterprise. Their enthusiastic engagement around the material reminds me time and time again why I find my subject so exciting.

What hybrid-learning adaptation(s) do you think you'll continue using post-pandemic?

Wow. Do I have to keep any? This has been a challenging year; I'm looking forward to getting back to a semblance of normalcy. I wonder if I'll realize after it's all over what potentially useful insights I've gained about pedagogy.

What did you learn about your students over the past year/during hybrid teaching?

I already knew this about Commonwealth students, but I saw it more clearly than ever this year: they value the community we have at this school, and they're willing to work hard to build and nurture it. Without their spontaneous efforts during the pandemic, we could not have held together socially the way we have.

What is your favorite project/assignment/topic you teach and why?

I love putting material in historical context at every level of the mathematics curriculum (I teach all).

What was your favorite class in high school?

Mathematics and science.

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