Alex Rennet

Alex Rennet
Monday, December 10, 2018 - 9:33am

Position: Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream

Academic Unit: Mathematical & Computational Sciences

Place of Birth: Toronto, ON

Joined UTM Faculty: 2017

“Young people are excited and passionate, and they have new ideas and interesting perspectives. I’ve always been attracted to that.”

Alex Rennet is so enthusiastic when talking about his teaching position at UTM that the words flow thick and fast, like a rushing stream.

“I’ve always loved to teach,” says Rennet. “I’ve done it since my undergraduate days. I like the interaction with people that teaching offers. At universities, young people are excited and passionate, and they have new ideas and interesting perspectives. I’ve always been attracted to that.”

He worked as a contract faculty member for five years before a permanent position opened up, and he has enjoyed the entire experience.

“It’s fantastic at UTM,” he says. “There are tons of faculty in the department who are passionate about teaching. There's always a friendly and collaborative atmosphere there.”

In the classroom, Rennet has abandoned the straight lecture in all his courses for a variety of active learning approaches. He calls his overall style “semi-planned, but as spontaneous as possible.” He knows what material he needs to cover, but allows questions and issues to develop naturally as students work through mathematical problems.

In the Calculus for Life Sciences revised curriculum (to which he contributed), “there’s a baked-in active learning approach that’s brand new this year.” Students read the material at home and come to class with questions. “We have clicker questions that foster peer instruction, in-class activities and discussions. It’s lively; I heard one student say, ‘I used to fall asleep in math class.’”

Rennet's current research includes a focus on active learning and its effectiveness, as contrasted, for example, with straight lecturing. He is eagerly participating in additional curriculum renewal efforts and is involved with initiatives to help faculty improve their teaching.

Juggling his teaching, research and committee duties with a young family doesn’t leave much time for another passion: Olympic weightlifting.

“I don’t get much sleep,” Rennet says, chuckling.

Selected Publications:

1.    This is Not a Book: An Introduction to Metamathematics A textbook for advanced undergraduate level Mathematical Logic courses.  Free and open source; available by request.

2.    The Non-Axiomatizability of O-Minimality. Journal of Symbolic Logic, Vol 79, 1, (2014). Available at http://arxiv.org/abs/1203.2715

 

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