Dr. Elizabeth Wentworth, Assistant Professor of Mathematics



March 2, 2022 | Academics, Faculty Feature, First Year Experience, Liberal Arts and Sciences, STEM

Elizabeth Wentworth

Dr. Elizabeth Wentworth

“I truly believe everyone learns differently and expresses their knowledge in different ways. I love seeing a student solve a problem a new way or apply to knowledge to something new. My goal is to foster intellectual curiosity rather than memorization and to build relationships where students feel safe making mistakes and trying new things.”

Dr. Elizabeth Wentworth’s doctoral dissertation investigated the integration of music instruction in the high school mathematics classroom. Since beginning at Guttman in 2016, her focus has been primarily on teaching. “Now that I am in my third year as an assistant professor I am starting to plan for more research,” says Dr. Wentworth. “I intend to continue looking at interdisciplinary work’s impact on student success and motivation.” Prior to teaching at Guttman, Dr. Wentworth taught three years of high school mathematics and coached the high school mathematics team, as well as the Academic Decathlon team. Dr. Wentworth has an undergraduate degree from the University of Rochester with majors in mathematics, music, and English, and a minor in history. Dr. Wentworth’s master’s and doctorate are from Teachers College Columbia University where she specialized in mathematics education.

While at Teachers College, Dr. Wentworth mentioned to a colleague in her doctoral program that she was interested in college teaching. “He was an adjunct at Guttman at the time and he encouraged me to reach out.” After learning about the Guttman model, including Guttman’s focus on integration, Dr. Wentworth felt that Guttman was an excellent fit for her. “I have always been interested in community college as both of my parents are community college graduates. My parents met in high school and my mom only agreed to date my dad if he was also going to the local community college. I joke that I literally wouldn’t be here without it!” Dr. Wentworth’s father went on to Cornell, and he still credits the skills he learned in community college with his career success. “The messaging behind the importance of community college has been present my entire life, so teaching at Guttman fulfilled a lifelong dream to serve a community and make a similar impact on my own students.”

At Guttman, Dr. Wentworth teaches Quantitative Reasoning, Elementary Algebra, College Algebra, and Precalculus. She says her teaching style focuses more on relationships, encouragement, and skills than on procedure. While some concepts require explanation and examples, Dr. Wentworth likes to take time to work with students on how they can connect new concepts to previous ideas, not only building new understanding but reinforcing prior knowledge. “My goal is to have my students focus on the ability to learn rather than the content so that they can take the skills they gain beyond my classroom.”

Dr. Wentworth has worked with Guttman students on projects spanning from grant proposals to study guides. One of her favorite projects involved having students investigate finance and savings opportunities, apply mathematical formulas, and pretend to save for a future purchase. Dr. Wentworth says that a project like this helps students set reasonable goals, apply mathematics in the real world, and learn about finances. “They choose something that requires a greater amount of money, something that they’d like to own or to experience in the future. For some, it’s concert tickets, others want to save for a car or first month’s rent. They then set a date, at least five years in the future, when they’d like to make their purchase. Then they research savings accounts trying to find the best interest rate. Working backwards they find out how much they would need to deposit today in order to make their future purchase. I think it’s a great way to show how we use mathematics outside of the classroom, whether or not we grow up to be mathematicians.”

When asked to describe her most memorable experience with Guttman students, Dr. Wentworth mentions grading grant proposals for her Fall 2016 class. “It was my first semester teaching at Guttman and the effort my students had invested and the resulting papers—moved me to tears. I was so proud of my students” says Dr. Wentworth.

The trait that Dr. Wentworth is most keen to pass on to her students is compassion. “I want my students to recognize that mistakes happen, life can be difficult and messy, but that it is always easier to face challenges when the people you are learning with, and learning from, demonstrate understanding.”

Dr. Wentworth recently finished working with several of her colleagues on the creation of OER for the Precalculus and algebra courses at Guttman. She is particularly proud of this work since it has helped make these courses more accessible for students. “I believe we can use the OER to build a set of resources for students to return to after they have completed a course when they find they have to rely on an earlier topic.” Additionally, she is working with a group of colleagues on integrating CRP in Guttman’s mathematics courses. “I am also working with other mathematics faculty to investigate our statistics course at Guttman,” says Dr. Wentworth. Beyond her work at Guttman, Dr. Wentworth’s goal is to publish a portion of her dissertation in the coming year.

Asked if there was anything else that she would like the Guttman community to know about herself, Dr. Wentworth replies, “I love teaching at Guttman. I think we have the greatest students and faculty that blend the rigor of college learning with the support and the understanding that students need.” Dr. Wentworth notes that college can be an alienating experience when freshmen walk into a large lecture hall and learn from a professor who does not even know the student’s name. “I think we provide such a valuable in-between that prepares our students to succeed in difficult situations in the future and to challenge those norms when they don’t work for them. I want the Guttman community to know that anyone can be a mathematician because anyone can do mathematics. No matter how easy or difficult high school mathematics may have been, it’s never too late to learn more.”