Media Release – March 17, 2021
Canadian Mathematical Society

Professor Alfonso Gracia-Saz to receive the 2021 CMS Excellence in Teaching Award

OTTAWA — The Canadian Mathematical Society (CMS) is pleased to announce that professor Alfonso Gracia-Saz (UofT) has been named the 2021 recipient of the CMS Excellence in Teaching Award. Professeur Gracia-Saz will receive his award at the 2021 Summer Meeting which will be held virtually from June 7 to June 11.

It is said that when Dr. Gracia-Saz teaches, he reinvents teaching. His work with the University of Toronto’s legendary MAT137 (Calculus with Proof) is an excellent example of his dynamic teaching style; his reorganization, his attention to detail, his famous problem sets, and his inspiring lectures and videos have given this challenging course a new level of energy–particularly significant in this recent time of pandemic challenge. A second example is found in his design of the instructor training program at the University of Toronto, a program that has now been extended to all Teaching Assistants in the Mathematics Department.

According to his Toronto colleague, Professor Galvao-Sousa, Professor Gracia-Saz “belongs to this rare breed of born teachers that possess not only the knowledge and creativity but also the warm and dynamic personality that allows him to teach students in such a natural way that the barrier between teacher and student ceases to exist.”

Jeremy Quastel, the Chair of the Mathematics Department at Toronto makes it clear that Alfonso Gracia-Saz’ work with MAT137 was a great achievement:

Alfonso has very high standards and expects a strong commitment on the part of his students. But he is very generous with his time and makes it abundantly clear that he is more than willing to offer help to anybody who needs it. The upshot has been staggeringly good course evaluations for Alfonso personally, but also very good results for the course overall.

Peter Taylor, the Chair of the CMS Excellence in Teaching Award Committee, remarks:

an important reason for Alfonso’s success as a teacher of mathematics who is exigent with his students is the elevated standard of performance he sets for himself.  For example, his videos are remarkable, both technically and conceptually––they give you an experience that is both challenging and joyful.

Alfonso Gracia-Saz obtained a Licenciatura (BSc) in both Physics and Mathematics from Universidad de Zaragoza (Spain), in 2000-2001, and a PhD in Mathematics from The University of California at Berkeley in 2006 (supervisor: Alan Weinstein). He held postdoctoral positions at Keio University (Japan) and University of Toronto before taking faculty positions first at the University of Victoria and then at the University of Toronto where he is now Associate Professor (Teaching Stream). His research interests are centred in active learning, inquiry-based learning, Poisson geometry and Lie algebroids.

Over the past 13 years, Alfonso has served as an instructor and the Academic Coordinator of the Canada/USA Mathcamp. His calculus YouTube channel with 200 videos has over 10,000 subscribers and well over 3 million views. He is active in mathematics outreach through competitions, math camps, science fairs and undergraduate research.  He has worked in a prison university project (currently Mount Tamalpais College) and has written a mathematical play. He and his partner, Nick, enjoy contra dancing, cooking and complex board games.

About the Excellence in Teaching Award

The Excellence in Teaching Award recognises sustained and distinguished contributions in mathematics education at the post-secondary undergraduate level at a Canadian institution. The award was established in 2004 to recognise teaching excellence as exemplified by effectiveness in the classroom and/or commitment and dedication to teaching students.

For information about past recipients visit: Excellence in Teaching Award

About the Canadian Mathematical Society (CMS)

The CMS is the main national organization whose goal is to promote and advance the discovery, learning and application of mathematics. The Society’s activities cover the whole spectrum of mathematics including: scientific meetings, research publications, and the promotion of excellence in mathematics competitions that recognize outstanding student achievements.

For more information please contact:

Prof. Javad Mashreghi (Laval)
Canadian Mathematical Society


Prof. Peter Taylor (Queen’s)
Chair, CMS Selection Committee for Excellence in Teaching Award
Canadian Mathematical Society