BYU-Idaho Professor, Rich Llewellyn, encourages college students who struggle with math.

Llewellyn completed his undergraduate at BYU and graduate work at Purdue University. As a college student, Llewellyn worked as a math tutor, helping his peers understand mathematical concepts, something he has enjoyed doing his whole life.

Llewellyn got a job at Ivy Tech State College for a few years teaching Beginning and Intermediate Algebra and Arithmetic.

Later, he tried to pursue a career using his major in developmental studies and child development as a preschool teacher. Llewellyn observed how young minds learn and develop from infancy to pre-teen and into young adulthood.

When job hunting, he came across an opening at Ricks College and saw that the job was looking for someone who could do what he did at another small university and decided to apply.

“I was honestly looking into child development or teaching child development,” Llewellyn said. “But then this job came up at Rick’s College, and it was really the mirror image of what I was doing at this other small local university and I love math. I applied for the position, and I got it.”

During his time teaching, he felt that the math books offered didn’t cater to the needs of the students who struggled to grasp onto math concepts. Llewellyn soon became motivated to write his own textbook, which he now uses in his classes.

“In the developmental math realm, I believed that the books on the market were hard for students to understand, especially at the developmental level,” Llewellyn said.

Llewellyn explained that if a student is between the ages of 18 to 25 and has difficulties grasping mathematical concepts, particularly at the junior and high school levels, the math books available were more difficult for them to understand.

While writing his book, Llewellyn incorporated the “developmental processes.” He wanted the book to be grounded in the psychology of learning and help students who struggle, put things together, step by step.

Brother Llewellyn works through math questions with students.

Llewellyn works through math questions with students. Photo credit: Mattie Johnson

“I believe when it comes to teaching students who struggle, most math books will teach you how to do problems, but they don’t teach you how to identify what process to use in each circumstance,” Llewellyn said. “We have some unique ideas like, the equal sign will determine if a problem is a solve or a simplify problem.”

Llewellyn was approached by sales representatives and surprised them when he said he was working on a book of his own. Some of the representatives soon offered to put him into contact with their editors.

An editor from a major math book company was skeptical of Llewellyn’s work. After reading the book, he and other businesses showed interest in signing with Llewellyn.

“I ended up choosing not to sign with any of them. There were a number of reasons, but I finished my book and provided it for our students here at BYU-I,” Llewellyn said. “But maybe one day, when I have more time, I’ll look at getting that published.”

Llewellyn said one of the most rewarding parts of his job is being able to help students.

“I’ve taught for almost 30 years, and it’s the countless number of students that come to you and say, ‘Hey, I’ve never got this before, and now I get it,’” Llewellyn said. “Maybe they can major in what they want to major in because now they’re not scared of the math barrier, and so goals and dreams that they have in their lives they can pursue those with greater confidence.”

Llewelyn believes it is a privilege to work at BYU-I and is grateful to have the opportunity to help students who struggle with math. He loves being able to help them open doors for more education and work opportunities.

“Seeing students open up the possibilities in their lives because they can handle the math, but maybe more importantly, they believe that they can do hard things. And I love that,” Llewelyn said. “I’ve spent a lifetime studying and working to help students at that level. And it’s super rewarding because, like I said, it opens the doors to their other education, but it also opens their minds and their hearts to the fact that anything’s possible.”