Many of my professors are experts in their field, but they are just not able to teach. I mean: most of the times they are confusing, don't follow a logic sequence in their speech or keep a superior level than the audience. They also answer to questions telling something different from the point of the question.

I know that I am not a genius and math is complicated but I am sure that many of you have experienced what I mean, I just cannot figure out why the more you are expert in something the less you are able to teach it.

Obviously I am generalising, please add "usually" in every sentence.

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    $\begingroup$ In order to answer your question, you need to define what you mean when you say many professors "are just not able to teach." What exactly do you expect undergrad profs do? Do you consult them during office hours for clarification on things you don't understand? If not, that's on you. Is it possible that you are difficult to teach? I agree that occasionally, a professor may lack skills to relate content to students, but you seem to insist that it is usually the case that profs aren't able to teach. In any case, I've voted to close this question as primarily opinion based. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Dec 17, 2019 at 22:11
  • $\begingroup$ I would suggest you edit your post to clarify, and qualify your opinions. E.g., don't ask others to edit your post to qualify your opinions by adding "usually". It's your job to ask well, or, if necessary, to edit your question. For example, you could ask about a specific topic, how the prof presented it, why you thought it was confusing... citing specific examples that can be addressed in an answer. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Dec 17, 2019 at 22:16
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    $\begingroup$ Also, "complicated" is in the eye of the beholder, not the "truth of the matter". What math courses have you enrolled in as an undergrad? What is the "sample size" of your opinion? $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Dec 17, 2019 at 23:33
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    $\begingroup$ As someone who teaches undergraduate mathematics, I have to ask ... have you ever tried teaching yourself? Even if someone is good at it, it will always be complicated and challenging. $\endgroup$ Dec 18, 2019 at 2:17
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    $\begingroup$ I can't help thinking, don't feed the troll. $\endgroup$ Dec 18, 2019 at 6:08

1 Answer 1


There are many reasons, but the classic explanation is that professors (especially at research universities) are picked (and compensated) for research ability versus teaching efficiency. (In general...caveat hawks.)

Probably a secondary reason is that mathematics tends to be a field with a high emphasis on logic and precision. However EDUCATION is more of a practical art (with aspects of psychology, leadership, tribal lore, efficiency, trade-offs, decisions with imperfect information, etc.) that are very different from Euclidean proofs. So, it would not surprise me that this issue occurs a lot in math, as a field.

The one counteracting tendency is the need for large amounts of service teaching for engineers and natural and even applied scientists (e.g. econ). This has some forcing to drive more effective teaching. On the gripping hand, if you're in a majors course...:-(

Note that none of this is new to the world. You might also ask many other questions about non-ideal behavior (in many places, other than math ed). Part of becoming an adult is realizing there are a lot of imperfect people/places out there. Don't get too exercised by it. Just do what you need to do, to optimize things for you. Find out which profs are good, buy Schaum's Outlines, etc. Maybe too late for you (but not others), but one attraction of "liberal arts schools" is more emphasis on teaching. You can always "go to Berkeley" for grad school.

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    $\begingroup$ Upvoted for research vs teaching (this is more applicable to American universities, in other countries teaching in a uni and doing research is often separated). Also not having a properly defined course/program. In general, absence of standardized and readily available course for standard subjects like calculus or probability theory across the nation and across all the unis - each uni and each prof re-invent the wheel again and again, just search their personal pages for the programs they proudly have cobbled together. But not everyone of them is a Richard Feynman. $\endgroup$
    – Rusty Core
    Dec 17, 2019 at 23:29

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