Prof. Anthony Castro does everything he can to make learning math as easy as pi.
Castro finds that a lot of students enter his classroom believing that math is difficult and they are learning things they won’t ever need to use, and that’s “in large part due to the examples that textbooks use,” he said. Castro wants them to discover “the joy of mathematics,” and does so by “teaching the content in a manner that engages them. Want to know how to beat a car dealership? Want to know how to buy a house? Want to be a millionaire? This can all be done through the math content we are required to teach in our courses.”
These real world examples motivate Castro’s students to learn, and there’s no better reward than when he sees them overcome “the obstacle of math,” he said. “Many students ‘feel’ they are not good at math. Being ‘good’ at math is just a misconception, I tell them. We just have to find a way to attack the material that works for you.”
His lectures are anything but boring — Castro jokes that he is fueled by Mountain Dew, and he brings that energy and sense of humor into the classroom. By making the subject fun, it opens up a new perspective for his students, and they no longer see math as “a challenge that they struggle to beat,” he said. “I’ve had so many students tell me that they understand the math because the way I presented it to them. I tell them, ‘I didn’t take your test. I didn’t study for you. I didn’t do your homework for you. This was all you. And now that you know how to take down a challenge, don’t ever let one stop you again from being successful.’”
Castro is an SBVC alumnus, graduating from Middle College High School in 2008. “When I first came to Valley, I didn’t know of my abilities to succeed in college, or how far I wanted to push my education,” he said. “The faculty and staff here at the campus poured their passion for student success into me. This care changed my own personal perception and instilled a confidence in me that I had what it takes to succeed in college.”
Armed with his associate’s degree at 18, he was able to earn his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Cal State San Bernardino at 20. His love of math and drive to help others led him to becoming a math professor, and he started working full-time at SBVC in the spring of 2016.
“This is an opportunity for me to have an impact on thousands of students’ lives by the time I retire,” Castro said. “I take this responsibility very seriously and I give my heart to show all my students their potential.”
He still holds with him memories of the professors he had that “brought out my potential and always believed in me,” he said, and “it is an honor to work side-by-side with these amazing professors now. At each stage of my journey, they were there for me, and they still support me as their colleague now. This is the main reason I am a professor. I have the opportunity to do what my professors did for me.”
Castro was named one of SBVC’s Outstanding Professors for 2021, and this is a testament to “the love I have for this campus,” he said. “I pour my heart into each lecture and student I teach, because I know what it means to have someone in your corner. And my students know they have someone that has their best interest at heart with me as their professor.”
When he’s not teaching, Castro enjoys working out, cars, and finding the best burritos. He’s a self-described “workaholic,” and said he wants to “make a change in the math world on how we teach math.” He is currently developing a YouTube channel, Instagram account, and college course on mathematical finance, with the goal of starting “the conversations that we should re-evaluate what math we should be teaching students.”
Castro is constantly striving for more, and wants his students to know there’s nothing they can’t do, as long as they are willing to put in the time. “You want to know the secret to success?” he said. “When no one is watching, you are working. And you are working to be the best version of yourself. I can only teach you so much in the classroom. I can only pass on so much of my skills. But you don’t want my skills, you want to bring your touch into this world.”
He suggests studying ahead of what is being taught in class and watching YouTube videos to learn more about a subject. This can continue out of school, too. “Study to learn more skills to reach the top of your profession,” Castro said. “Be humble, reach out to people above you in your career to learn how to make it to the top. Learn from the best and then make that career your own.”
Castro doesn’t see failure as a setback, because “it awakens a beast in me to reach a new level,” he said. Struggles he had during college to understand some material made Castro realize that it is okay to fail, and pushed him to “study like I never had before.” After countless hours of hard work, he earned a 4.0 in his upper division math classes and graduated with departmental honors.
“I could have taken that defeat and said no, I’m not good at math, this is the best I can do,” Castro said. “If you are my student reading this or not my student, don’t you ever think that this is the best you can do. The only limits you have are the ones you put on yourself. And if you need anything, my student or not, I’m here to support you.”
Castro invites all SBVC students looking for advice or encouragement to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, saying, “We can bring out your beast mode as well!”