What does a guitar have to do with math? Plenty, says Mathematics Instructor Greg Wheaton.
“There is an overlap,” he explains. “It's thinking about strategy and having precision when you play.”
Wheaton, who has played guitar for much of his life, uses the instrument in his classes to teach various math concepts. It also helps break the ice with his students, as some of them have brought their guitars, and the occasional ukulele, to play with him. The guitar is more than Wheaton's hobby, as he plays professionally and has performed at various venues and competitions. He also has released his own recordings (more on that later).
Regarding math, it's a subject that Wheaton has been devoted to since he was a student at Judson University. He recalled the first time he fell in love with the subject during a linear algebra class.
“The final exam was essentially a conversation with the professor in his office,” he said. “I answered his questions, explained concepts, and worked out problems on the board. That moment began a growing passion for mathematics.”
We caught up with Wheaton to ask him some questions about his life and his work at ECC. Here are his answers.
In your words, what do you do at ECC?
At ECC, I strive to be an engaging, thought-provoking instructor to my students, and a kind, collaborative servant within our math department.
What is your greatest accomplishment since you've been here?
My greatest accomplishment has probably been my proficiency with and implementation of our math program called Maple. Maple has allowed me to model many difficult concepts in calculus III, as well as assist other instructors in the development of their course materials.
In addition, I took part in a conference presentation about the use of Maple in the calculus sequence.
What would you do if you were ECC president for a day?
I would probably walk around campus, telling every faculty member and staff worker, “Thank you for what you do!” I also would get to know their stories.
If there was a movie about your life, who would you want to play you?
Jerry Seinfeld. He's hilarious and honest.
What's on your “bucket list?”
I would love to learn how to “trad climb.” This means clipping in to artificial protection placed in a rock wall to ensure safety while rock climbing. Very scary stuff.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
First and foremost, I love being with my two kids, Lucy and Auggie, and my awesome wife Kim. I also enjoy helping lead my church community, having coffee with friends, going rock climbing, and playing guitar.
Where was the best place you've traveled to?
Mount Rainier National Park. That mountain has so many beautiful scenes to behold: Waterfalls, prairies, rock formations, rivers, trees, and snow!
What's one fact we should know about you?
I once juggled a soccer ball 1,188 times without it touching the ground. I mainly used my quadriceps.
What's something about your job that others should know?
I use a total of three monitors in my office. It makes me feel super productive, even when I'm not.
What would be your “theme song?”
“Gregory Bald Ridge” by yours truly! Look it up.
(Editor's note: We did! It's right here, from his “Hope Against Hope” CD. And yes, he did have dreadlocks before coming to ECC in 2013.)
What quote best describes your philosophy?
A quote that guides my perspective on my job has been, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” -The Apostle Paul, Colossians 3:23.
Complete this sentence: “I enjoy working at ECC because…”
I'm passionate about mathematics, love working with students, and thoroughly enjoy the best department on campus!