In a statement of his teaching philosophy, Sam Kaplan writes "I hope that my excitement and activity inspire my students to view math as a fun and important endeavor. In class, I project a picture of math as current, vibrant and exciting as well as something they can master." His department chair says that "Sam has several attributes that make him a great teacher. Of these, the most significant is his devotion and true compassion for his students. As with many educators, Sam believes that education and the pursuit of truth and knowledge will profoundly help his students in many aspects of their professional and personal lives." In their evaluations, students consistently praise Sam for his concern, his ability to explain difficult material, his enthusiasm for mathematics, his willingness to help at any time, and his overall organization of the course. The following are a few typical student comments. "His excitement for calculus radiates through his lectures and makes you love calculus..." "He was excited about the class every day and able to explain everything." "He loves math, and he loves all of his students. His care really shows through."
Another important feature of Sam's teaching is the variety of styles and techniques he brings to the classroom. In addition to lectures, he engages students in group work and oral presentations to the class. Learning to verbally present difficult mathematical ideas is an important skill not covered on any written exam. By providing students with a variety of tools, and immersing them in different settings to solve problems, he is able to effectively reach a broad range of students. Sam's teaching is truly interdisciplinary. In addition to teaching in the Mathematics Department, he has taught two Humanities courses, a course on Jewish Women in American History, and a liberal studies colloquium on Mathematics and Social Justice, in which his students tutored students in an elementary school.
During his 10 years at UNC Asheville, Sam has mentored twenty undergraduate research students. Their projects have ranged from the geometry of atonal music to celestial mechanics and differential equations. Most of his research students have presented their work at regional mathematics meetings and/or at NCUR. Recently, Sam has helped administer the National Science Foundations Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) program, at UNC Asheville.
Another important project that Sam has initiated and facilitated is AIM (Asheville Initiative in Mathematics), a program that connects the UNCA Mathematics Department with the local and regional communities. As part of that initiative Sam received a $900,000 grant from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction to provide stipends for local K-12 math teachers to attend mathematics teaching circles. The teaching circles are designed to help teachers incorporate more projects and problem-based learning experiences into their classrooms.
A former student summarized Sam's teaching very nicely: "Sam Kaplan is an excellent teacher, a devoted supporter of the liberal arts model of education, and a constant reminder that we can each affect our community for the better."