I'm one of the top mathematics students at UWA, with a WAM of 94.250 and a GPA of 7.000. In fact, I was even awarded a letter of commendation by the head of the Mathematics and Statistics Department for getting a perfect score in my real analysis unit (MATH1013). Prof Serena Dipierro, the lecturer for that unit, wrote the following:
"Thomas is one of the best students that I have met in my career, no surprise that he has completed MATH1013 with full marks. Thomas is extremely talented, brilliant, has a mature approach to mathematics, and has already developed a fine taste for beautiful mathematical problems."
However, I have not always been so successful academically. I was diagnosed with ADHD at age 17. During high school I found that content (especially mathematics) was often presented in a confusing and unmotivated manner. Equations tended to “fall from the sky”, being presented with no indication of where they came from, as if they were magical spells that simply just worked. This is bad even for neurotypical students, but with my condition I especially found it impossible to properly learn the material.
After diagnosis, I spent the next two years teaching myself mathematics. During this time, I started to realize how poorly mathematics is taught in schools. I found that I could only learn mathematics successfully from authors which took the time to motivate the ideas, ones that gave me the sense I could have discovered them myself. While these ideas apply to all mathematics teaching, I have found them especially effective for students with Autism and/or ADHD.
My pathway into UWA required me to complete an abridging course at Edith Cowan University. Afterwards, I completed a year of study at Charles Sturt University, which allowed me to get into UWA due to my academic performance. While I now study at one of the most prestigious universities in Australia, I understand on a personal level the experience of someone who “doesn’t get maths”. What distinguishes me from my peers is that this was my experience not too long ago.
I heavily incorporate these insights into my tutoring, and find I have an easy time connecting with people who identify themselves as “not a maths person”. In fact, I often find it easier to teach non-math students! My number one goal with students is to ensure they are not afraid of the mathematics I am teaching them.