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Department ofMathematics and Computer Science


Linda Burks and students studying math

Linda Burks and students studying math

SCU Math Postdoc Studies Effective Student-Tutor Communication

Burks manages Math Learning Center to improve first-year experience

Burks manages Math Learning Center to improve first-year experience

By Ally O’Connor ‘20

Through Santa Clara University’s Inclusive Excellence Postdoctoral Program, Professor Linda Burks (Mathematics and Computer Science) is studying the impacts of communication on problem-solving. A year after joining the math department as an adjunct lecturer, Burks was one of three researchers to join this post-doctoral consortium in 2017, its introductory year. Returning for the 2018-2019 academic year, the postdoc cohort has grown to five researchers, all of whom are supported by a faculty mentor.

When Burks began her post-doctoral research, she also initiated the Mathematics Learning Center, which serves to help students with diverse interests excel in their SCU math courses. Integral to her post-doctoral research, the Center allowed her to hire and train 15 student math tutors, giving her the opportunity to study the interactions between tutor and student.

In addition to the Mathematics Learning Center, Burks also studies and facilitates her own Active Learning Labs for precalculus students as she strives to understand the mathematical strategies that a tutor needs to know in order to more effectively communicate with a student. From what she has learned thus far from her surveys, collected data, and student-tutor reflections of work, Burks finds that students tend to be most successful in group settings when invited “to justify their decisions and to challenge each other.”

After having completed her doctoral thesis on teaching problem-solving at the University of Michigan, Burks is grateful to have found a continuation of that study through SCU’s Inclusive Excellence Postdoctoral Program. Describing the experience as “enriching,” Burks appreciates the unique opportunity “to be a part of a nice collaborative group here that I can share with and learn from.”


About the Inclusive Excellence Postdoctoral Program

The goal of the inclusive excellence postdoctoral fellowship program at Santa Clara University is to support the early development of teaching scholars who are from historically underrepresented groups. These two-year appointments involve departments in every area of the College of Arts Sciences: arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. For more information about the inclusive Excellence Postdoctoral Program contact Kate Morris.


faculty story

Linda Burks helps students in SCU's Mathematics Learning Center