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Volunteer to be a MathNerds Team Member

Thank you for your interest in becoming a MathNerds team member. At present, most of our volunteers are professional mathematicians holding advanced degrees in mathematics. However, we are willing to consider any candidate who can show exceptional talent in aiding others with mathematical questions. If you feel you have what it takes, do not hesitate to submit your application.

Important Tips for Applicants

  • To become a MathNerd, you must have a very thorough knowledge of the areas of mathematics you will be working in and you must have good teaching or tutoring skills. We do not require any degrees or credentials, but:
    • We have never accepted any elementary or middle school students as MathNerds; they simply do not know enough yet.
    • We have accepted two or three very bright high school students, some high-school math teachers, and a moderate number of undergraduate and graduate math majors. But most of the MathNerds have PhD degrees in Mathematics, and are working as college or university professors or as mathematicians in industry.
  • MathNerds uses an inquiry-based teaching method. We rarely give complete answers; we usually give hints, and it takes good teaching skills to devise a helpful hint. Before you apply, be sure to read some of our Exemplary Answers to see how this teaching method works. We evaluate your application primarily on the quality of the hints you give for the practice questions. We will not accept your application if you give complete answers instead of hints.
  • You need to be able to work fast. MathNerds answers most questions within 1 or 2 days; our average response time is about 22 hours. When you apply you will be given about 5-10 practice questions, and you will have 7 days to respond to all of them.
  • Clear writing and good spelling are important; if we can't understand your answers, we won't accept your application.

How MathNerds Works: A Peek Inside

There is much to know about the service (see our FAQ and our Hints and Tips), but the most important aspect is that this is a voluntary contribution of your time. The service consists of a volunteer network of mathematicians, like yourself, who receive notification of questions via e-mail and respond via on-line forms. Even though MathNerds is a volunteer service, it does have very high standards: we have been answering 98% of all questions received, and on the average within 24 hours of receipt. Signing up does not obligate you to answer all the questions you receive, but we do ask that you be realistic and prompt: do not sign up for more questions than you can answer; answer promptly when you do receive a question; and if you are not going to answer, send the question immediately to the General Queue so that other team members will have a chance to answer it.

We take a unique approach to answering questions in virtually every area of mathematics. We do not do homework assignments, or even necessarily give complete answers, rather, we provide references or guidance that explain the concepts, thus enabling the users to solve the problem themselves. This is the spirit of The MathNerds' mission.

The number and type of questions you receive will be determined by you, using your password protected user profile, which you will be able to change at any time. For example, if you wish to change the number of questions you receive per week or set this cap to zero while on vacation, you can do it easily via an on-line form. The volume of questions will depend on the area(s) as well, since we get fewer questions in the more advanced areas. When a question arrives in your queue it remains there for two days unless you answer it, lock it, or send it to the General Queue. If the question goes unanswered for two days and you have not locked it, then it is automatically moved to the General Queue and any team member may answer it. A locked question remains in your queue until you answer it.

The Online Volunteer Process Consists of Four Steps

  1. Read and agree to the "Legal Stuff."

  2. Fill out an online form indicating your mathematical background and contact information.

  3. Complete your user profile detailing the subject areas you wish to answer questions in.

  4. Answer some practice questions in your selected areas.

Preparing For The Practice Questions

Please do not begin filling out the application pages until you have spent some time preparing for the practice questions! If you are unfamiliar with the Socratic method, discovery-based learning and inquiry-based learning then you may want to spend some time reviewing resources about these methods. A short list is available on our links page.

The MathNerds' only activity is answering questions, so as part of your application we give you some practice questions, which you should answer as if you were already a MathNerds team member. The practice questions are similar to ones that we receive every day. There are no trick questions, but some are phrased vaguely or incompletely and you will need to interpret them before you answer them. Remember that MathNerds usually gives hints or sketches of answers, not complete answers, and you should answer this way too. The practice questions test your mathematical knowledge and your ability to guide people who understand it less well than you do. Don't worry that we will think less of your mathematical abilities because you give a hint; it often takes more skill to give a good hint than to give a complete answer.

You can also prepare for the practice questions by looking at past questions in our Archives to get an idea of what kinds of questions we receive and how we respond to them. You can even cover up the answer and see if you can answer it by yourself, then compare your answer to ours; your answer might be better! We currently handle questions in 30 different subject areas. You can apply to answer questions in any or all of these areas; we will give you practice questions for each area you choose.

In the application we'll ask you to mark the areas you want to answer questions in by giving the number of questions per week you are willing to answer in each of your chosen areas. A good rule of thumb is to start out with no more than 5 questions total in all categories. You can adjust these numbers after you are accepted. Keep in mind that the more categories you choose, the more practice questions you will be required to answer. It is more fun to start slow and enjoy the process than to be overwhelmed with questions begging to be answered!

Our greatest need is for volunteers in the 6-8 Middle School and 9-10 High School areas, followed by Algebra, Differential Equations, and the ever-popular Other category. Even if you are primarily interested in advanced math topics, please consider also volunteering for one of these areas.

What's Next?

When you are prepared to answer the practice questions, come back to this page by clicking on the Volunteer link at the top of the MathNerds home page, proceed through the legal information, fill out the application, and start answering your practice questions. You need not complete the practice questions all in one session. You may leave and login in through the main page to complete these questions. You will have a week to complete them.

If you haven't already done so read the Legal Stuff. You'll be asked to agree to this when you volunteer so make sure you read this!

Now that you've read the Legal Stuff click here to volunteer.

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