For UW Bothell's Peter Littig, mathematics is not just an academic subject, but rather something deeply woven into the fabric of our collective consciousness. For Littig, mathematics is a joyful endeavor, one he describes as a journey filled with surprising turns and beautiful vistas.
His enthusiasm is clearly contagious; his students are mastering their coursework and he is earning praise campuswide as recipient of the 2009 Distinguished Teaching Award.
Littig joined UW Bothell as an assistant professor in the Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences Program in 2005. One of his first challenges was to help establish a calculus sequence for the institution's first class of freshmen, a challenge he readily accepted. In his first three years at UW Bothell, he earned the distinction of developing six unique courses, from Interdisciplinary Cryptography to Women in/and Mathematics, each echoing his commitment to real-world problem-solving and interdisciplinary teaching and learning.
In his classroom, Littig strives to create affirmative learning environments in which he and his students "engage in rigorous scholastic inquiry and seek to connect course content to their lives beyond the classroom." As an example, in his course Game Theory and Its Applications, students learn about game theory as an interdisciplinary approach to the study of human behavior. Through their work, students seek to understand competition, cooperation, strategy and conflict using symmetric and asymmetric games, zero-sum and non-zero-sum games, mixed and pure strategies, Nash equilibria and strategic moves.
By focusing on applications from a range of disciplines including anthropology, business, philosophy and biology, students can place the material in the context of their lives. In the course, mathematics is used as the toolkit and language for relaying analyses and students are able to apply mathematical principles to practical situations.
This hands-on, thoughtful approach to mathematics helps Littig's students to see math in a way many of them had never considered. As the son of schoolteachers, Littig understands the role he plays as an educator and strives to make a lasting impact through his efforts. Says Littig, "I want my students to recognize the mathematics that is in them, to see that human beings are mathematical beings… I want them to recognize that mathematics is this long conversation and it's as much about being human as it is about solving problems." When placed in this context, Littig finds that his students are better able to absorb the complexities of subjects like calculus and statistics and, best of all, to find meaningful applications in their lives.
Littig received his doctorate in mathematics from UW Seattle, his Master of Science in mathematics from the University of California, Davis, and his Bachelor of Science in mathematics from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Prior to coming to UW Bothell, he taught at UW Seattle, UC Davis, and Alhambra High School. Littig was twice nominated for the Distinguished Teaching Award, both in 2007 and 2008. In 2001 he received the Excellence in Teaching Award from the Department of Mathematics at UW Seattle.
Says UW Bothell Chancellor Kenyon S. Chan, "Professor Littig reflects UW Bothell's core value of transformational education, ‘engaging our students in transformational learning experiences that challenge their expectations, broaden their horizons and stimulate their ambitions.'" For this reason, Chan and the entire UW Bothell community are honored to announce Peter Littig as the 2009 Distinguished Teaching Award recipient.