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Learning Math With Mr. G-enius

Upper School Math Teacher John Gussaroff Shares His Dedication to Expanding Math Opportunities for His Students

Photo by Lauren Fantle

For most people, the first thing they think of when hearing the word “summer” is a refreshing time from a long school year, traveling around the world filled with divine landscapes or simply staying at home with family and friends. However, upper school math teacher John Gussaroff, commonly known as “Mr. G,” continues to pursue math even after the school year is over. Gusaroff has spent the past few summers scoring AP Calculus exams, typically scoring between 1500 and 2500 questions every year in a span of five to seven days. While this task sounds daunting and repetitive, scoring the exams gives him an advantage that he can bring into his classes.

“Scoring while following College Board's very precise rubric gives excellent insight into which skills are being highlighted and in what way,” Gussaroff said. “I try to bring back everything I've learned back to the classroom and let it inform my scope and sequence for the coming school year.”

In addition to scoring AP exams, this summer, Gussaroff initiated a summer precalculus course for selective students at Maclay. Aiming to give them opportunities to accelerate their math curriculum, the course was offered to students who excelled in Algebra II.

“I would say the course was a success,” Gussaroff said. “The students who enrolled did very well and all showed a level of proficiency allowing them to move on to AP Calculus for this coming school year.”

Even though Gussaroff has been deeply fascinated by math ever since he was in high school, math was not always a part of his career. When his eldest child entered high school, he was surprised to see how much math he still remembered, which inspired him to get a master’s degree in mathematics. Soon after, he became a teacher at a school his step-kids were attending and had the pleasure to teach his stepdaughter AP Calculus AB and BC.

“Math was always my favorite subject in school, but it wasn't until I began helping my step-kids with math when they were in middle school that I realized how much I still enjoyed it after so many years away from academia,” Gussaroff said. “I was struck by how one-dimensional their understanding of mathematics was and realized that the way I had been exposed to the discipline was so much richer than what they were learning.”

Just as much as Gussaroff loves math himself, he enjoys helping students expand the ways they approach mathematical ideas. For any student enrolled in a math class at Maclay, classroom D-3 is a place to freely ask questions for help, practice math outside of class or just engage in a friendly conversation with him. If you have  asked Gussaroff a math question, you are likely aware that he always tries to give the best answer possible, no matter how lost you are.

“I love the moments with students who are as excited about math as I am, and it is these moments that I find I get the most pleasure out of on a day to day basis,” Gussaroff said. “But, I think it is the idea that even students who don't feel this way about math need this knowledge that keeps me coming back since joyous math moments don’t happen every day.”

As a teacher who is more excited about a student’s growth than anything else at school, Gussaroff is always excited to practice math outside of the classroom, especially with his Mu Alpha Theta (ΜΑΘ) students. Last year he reorganized the entire club to make it more active, promoting fun math events, volunteering opportunities and weekly practice sessions. After countless hours of practicing for competitions, Gussaroff and a total of nine ΜΑΘ students became the first Marauders to represent Maclay at the ΜΑΘ state convention.

“Working with Mr. G for ΜΑΘ has been great,” ΜΑΘ President Clark Mitchell said. “Mr. G is always willing to talk and work on the club, while his love for math makes practices fun. I think his honest and kind personality, along with his love for math, makes a great mix of fun and competitiveness for MAΘ.”

Gussaroff has not only brought a nearly dead club back to life but also created a class that combines AP Calculus AB and BC for qualified students as a means to maximize the students’ learning efficiency. A few weeks prior to the AP exam, he organized complete review notes for all chapters, held practice exam sessions on the weekends and even hosted a review session on a Zoom call for students in need of extra help. On top of everything, to make the whole process more fun and motivating, Gussaroff made a friendly deal with his calculus students that he will dye his beard pink if everyone passes the AP exam. In fact, every returning student in his calculus classes passed the exam, and he kept his end of the deal by dying his beard pink for the summer.

“Mr. G would stay with me after school and listen and help me with any questions I had,” senior Katherine Gorkov said. “Even when it seemed like I wasn’t understanding a concept no matter how many times we went over it, he would still sit with me until I did understand it. Without his help to study for the AP exam, I wouldn’t have gotten such a good score.”

All of Gusaroff’s past work for Maclay’s math program underlie his goal to pass his mathematical knowledge to younger generations in a richer and deeper manner. With his core belief that mathematics is the most fundamental discipline out of all and that every student deserves to achieve this knowledge, he continues striving to be a friendly teacher and provide students with the most enjoyable and efficient learning experience.

“Mathematics is the best language we have for decoding the mysteries of the universe,” Gussaroff said. “I am proud to have a small part in passing the knowledge of mathematics on to future generations.”


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Andy Poll

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