Page updated 30.5.2016

On a teacher’s identity and mathematics

When Raija Tuohi was a little girl, she wanted to be a hairdresser. However, luckily for hundreds, maybe thousands of engineering students, she ended up studying mathematics and started to teach. She got her PhD before turning 30 and did a lot of temporary work before finding something more permanent at TUAS in the end of the 1970s.

In the photo: The cycling pensioner, emerita Raija Tuohi took part in planning ICT-City (formerly ICT Building). ICT-City was completed in 2006 and nowadays she cycles there to teach every now and then.

Text and photo: Anne Lehikoinen

Raija Tuohi is a popular teacher. She has just retired, but is happy to continue teaching, at least every now and then. Retirement and being an emerita are quite new for the time being. Raija started working at TUAS at the beginning of September 1979. You can count how long ago that was!

“I find teaching interesting and I’ve always liked coming to work”, our Emeraija says.

Mathematics is not the easiest subject to adopt, and perhaps not always the most inspiring. Raija Tuohi has the skill to explain the most difficult things so that they make sense, her students say. She is still asked to teach and participate in the quality work at TUAS.

TUAS has just been awarded the quality label in the audit implemented by the Finnish Education Evaluation Centre FINEEC. The label is valid until spring 2022. Passing the audit is an important achievement for a higher education institution.

Quality work never stops, and the to-do list of the quality team includes e.g. trimming the process map and developing the internal audit. Raija is involved in these task as an emerita. 

A medal awarded by the President of the Republic of Finland in 2015

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“Principal lecturer Raija Tuohi has conducted nationally significant research on teaching mathematics, she has made publications and has presented in national and international forums. Her role has been important also in the development of the quality assurance of TUAS”, the note said. Last year, Raija was awarded the Cross of Merit of the Order of the White Rose of Finland. The celebratory event was dignified and many teacher colleagues joined in celebrating that the long career and achievements were appreciated.

Most recently, Raija has taught students in the faculty of Business, ICT and Chemical Engineering. Information technology students are inspired by mathematics at the latest when they notice its importance in game development and data encryption, the teacher says happily.

To the question how the youth of today manage the twists of mathematics, she gives a politely evasive answer:

"Nowadays the routine in calculations is weaker. Before, everyone used to learn the multiplication table by heart, but now they may have to check the calculator. It only slows down the calculation”, laments Raija Tuohi, who enjoys problem-solving.

Fascinated by pedagogics

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“When I was young, I took summer courses in pedagogics and got a counselling teacher’s qualification as well. Later on I have tutored dozens of teachers from different fields in their pedagogic studies. A teacher’s identity is the same everywhere, it’s about encountering the student.  I could say that I’ve gotten to know teaching all the way to circus and dentistry”, Raija laughs.

Your own field has its special qualities however; it can’t be easy to “transfer” logical thinking?

“You have to always be interested in the students and their learning. You have to encourage the students and inspire them to get to know things and do independent exercises. That’s where it starts.

In Finland, we have to pay attention to that the primary and secondary schools have qualified math teachers. Natural sciences and experts in mathematics are important in terms of our future”, Raija Tuohi reminds.