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Axel Hundemer awarded Leo Yaffe Award for Excellence in Teaching

Published: 19 June 2024

Congratulations to Professor Axel Hundemer, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, for being awarded the 2024 Leo Yaffe Award for Excellence in Teaching!  This award is given each year to recognize a faculty member for superior teaching at the undergraduate level in the Faculty of Science.  

Read below the citation for the announcement of the award. 

The Leo Yaffe Award is given each year to recognize a faculty member for superior teaching at the undergraduate level in the Faculty of Science, and the recipient for 2024 is Axel Hundemer, from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. Axel teaches required courses in mathematics, where many students begin the term with anxiety since they expect to spend their time memorizing formulas with little understanding of the relevance, and to their surprise they enjoy every class, where they discover the beauty and the relevance of mathematics. These are challenging courses with large classes, and most grades are B or B+, yet Dr. Hundemer’s average teaching evaluation for the last 10 courses is an astounding 4.7 out of 5. His superb teaching is also recognized by his fellow faculty members, clearly summarized by one who wrote: “I had the distinct pleasure of working alongside the monument that is Axel Hundemer. All the students who have had him as an instructor are quick to state that he is the best teacher they have ever had.” 

In addition to classroom teaching, Axel implemented Webwork, a software system for automated homework that has been phenomenally successful in providing students with exercises to develop their understanding, and with his help it is now used by most of his colleagues. He also directed the Math Help Desk for over a decade, providing tutorial services for all Math courses, he has been the Undergraduate Program Director, has chaired or been involved in a multitude of committees to assess, develop or revise the curriculum, and during the pandemic he took charge of moving the departmental teaching online.. Axel now contributes his administrative capabilities as the Associate Dean for the Faculty, while still maintaining his outstanding teaching.  

Dr. Hundemer states the following about his philosophy of teaching: “My primary goal as a Mathematics instructor is to instill in my students at least a fraction of the fascination I have with Mathematics, and to convince them that Mathematics is actually exciting once one moves away from rote memorization and attempts to understand it at a deeper level” A collage of quotes from his students illustrates how effectively he has done this: Professor Hundemer is one of the best professors at McGill, he teaches with a clear joy and his lectures are fantastic. He is the only professor I have ever had who walks into a lecture and teaches without notes. He is a legend in McGill and is the best prof I’ve ever had; a brilliant and kind instructor who has the success of students at heart and is so good at explaining difficult concepts. I cannot overstate how good his lectures are, three hours a week flew by, and he made me love analysis. Lastly, one student said: “Hands down the best teacher I have ever had in every aspect of the job. If I could have him teach everything I have to learn for the rest of my life I would do so in a heartbeat.” There could be no finer tribute. 

It is a great pleasure to announce that Axel Hundemer is the 2024 recipient of the Leo Yaffe Award. 

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