Giuliana Davidoff

Mount Holyoke Faculty Award for Teaching

Math is hard. Really hard. That’s the first thing that jumps out when reading Giuliana Davidoff’s teaching evaluations. It’s also the first thing that jumps out when reading the titles of her courses: Explorations in Number Theory, Calculus, Linear Algebra, Discrete Mathematics, Real Analysis, Complex Analysis, Analytical Number Theory, and Abstract Algebra. Mathematics, as we all know, is a quantitative, abstract, theoretical, and challenging discipline. Such course titles do little to help alleviate students’ fear of the subject.

Yet, Giuliana is a master at breaking down and clearly explaining the most difficult concepts so that her students not only understand and appreciate incredibly complex concepts, but they also are inspired to work harder and are empowered to achieve more than they ever thought possible. Giuliana is a master teacher. Here’s a common comment that one hears from her students in her intro courses --“I truly feel like I am discovering mathematics during her classes.” “I learned that I want to be a math major!!”

In her calculus and intermediate core courses, the main pedagogy used by Giuliana is to allow her students to redo their homework assignments, quizzes, and exams. It is more work – for the students and for her – and, parenthetically, the extra work is something students don’t hesitate to note. But, they also report that the increased workload pays off. Her methods are deeply connected to her generosity – and she is praised by ALL the students who take these courses with her. Her teaching style not only significantly reduces students’ phobia of mathematics, but also is Giuliana’s “sneaky” way of having students learn from their mistakes and work on more practice problems – and learn and learn. One student’s evaluation simply noted: “5/5 stars!!!” Another noted: “I love her and her class so much! …You can tell that she's not about torturing the students by giving difficult exams and low grades. She just cares about how much you learn and she wants you to practice more. Opportunities are very important. She trusts her students to do well by giving us opportunities. She made math class more fun and less stressful.”

For her advanced-level courses, Giuliana shifts her focus to professional training and skill development. Here are two quotes from her Analytical Number Theory class: “Giuliana is basically a genius with this subject.” “Professor Davidoff is brilliant. So incredibly brilliant. I struggled immensely in this class, but her elegant enthusiasm and willingness to help, re-explain, and answer my basic questions enabled me to stick around and somewhat enjoy the pain this class brings.”

Giuliana is the Robert L. Rooke Professor of Mathematics. Her specializations include Expander graphs, number theory, and Ramanujan graphs. She is the coauthor of Elementary Number Theory, Group Theory, and Ramanujan Graphs, Laboratories in Mathematical Experimentation: A Bridge to Higher Mathematics, and Geometry of Numbers.

She has taught broadly across the mathematics curriculum over the last thirty-four years, from 100-level distribution courses, to introductory calculus courses, to intermediate and advanced-level core and elective courses. She was a pioneer in the Past and Presences curriculum – a collaborative teaching effort thirty years ago and something she has attributed to her growth as a liberal arts college professor. She is the quintessential Mount Holyoke professor – a gifted intellect and an insatiable curiosity coupled with a passion for teaching and for her students.

She is described as wonderful, kind, sweet, best, amazing, perfect, patient, loving, articulate, professional, and best fashion sense. “Davidoff is one of the most challenging, understanding, intelligent, and amazing professors I know.” It is a great pleasure to present Giuliana Davidoff with the Mount Holyoke College Faculty Award for Teaching.