They finish a few problems together. The students seem comfortable, ready to move on, which is when he has them solve a problem independently. All nine quietly work. One can’t wait. He blurts out his answer. Another student, disappointed, says, “Thanks a lot for giving us all a chance to figure it out.” Wynne steps in. “How do we know it was the right answer? Let’s find out...”
After class, a student who his answer talks with Wynne about where he went wrong in one of his calculations. They retrace his steps on the chalkboard. This isn’t the only opportunity that a confused student will have to work with him. Wynne has an open-door policy. He is almost always available to meet with all of his students one-on-one outside of class.
“Generally, students have such diverse learning styles. Any one instruction technique that I employ will fail at least forty percent of the students,” he says. “It’s a primary difficulty when you’re teaching math. So I try to construct the class on an average. I reach the outliers by offering challenge problems and by meeting with students outside of class.”
And it works. Students who meet with him regularly improve. “It’s an ideal way to teach. If it was economically feasible, that’d be the best class model: One student and one teacher.”
Wynne believes everyone in his class is capable of doing well if they study hard, have a firm understanding of the material, and mentally prepare. To ensure that do well he’s actively trying to give them the right tools and practice so they don’t panic when it’s time to take an exam or employ math in real-world applications.
“My student days are still close enough that I can recall the psychological moment that occurs when you’re facing a problem, which you can’t immediately solve. It’s a physical thing. You can get sweaty and nervous, and you just totally freak out,” he remembers. “And that’s the thing students have to get past. That’s the moment when all their studying needs to kick in; when they need to just relax and apply the techniques they’ve learned so that they can get to the other side and solve the problem.”