Alumni Dr. Trefor Bazett smiles at the camera while leaning over a railing.

When thinking about students learning mathematics in school, it’s not often that your mind would wander to the teaching tactics of a YouTube expert but one SMUS alum has become just that. Dr. Trefor Bazett (‘03) is currently a Mathematics Assistant Teaching Professor at the University of Victoria (UVic) and is better known online to students as “@DrTrefor.”  That very same Dr. Trefor was recently awarded the 2024 Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences (PIMS) Education Prize at the PIMS Changing the Culture Conference on May 17 in Vancouver. 

The PIMS prize highlights contributions to education in the mathematical sciences and more specifically someone who has played a major role in encouraging activities which have enhanced public awareness and appreciation of the mathematical sciences. It’s no doubt that Trefor has been doing just that.

The popular YouTube channel has over 408,000 subscribers looking to learn mathematics in an engaging and entertaining way. Many of the videos have upwards of one million views and cover everything from linear algebra to calculus and differential equations.

“I fell in love with mathematics first and teaching mathematics second,” describes Trefor. “For math, it really hooked me when I transitioned from calculating things to proving things.”

“I love seeing students come alive when they get those big ‘aha!’ moments as something clicks, and supporting them on that journey. On YouTube in particular I get to share the coolest parts of mathematics that are most exciting and have great visual storylines and that is just fun.”

Alumni Dr. Trefor Bazett is writing a math equation on a white board while teaching a class. 

Full Circle with SMUS

After graduating from SMUS, Trefor went on to complete a BSc in mathematics and physics at UVic and followed that up with a MSc and PhD in mathematics at the University of Toronto. During his own education journey he started posting his videos that have over time drawn many to his page, some of them even SMUS students. 

“One morning, a (SMUS) student came to me to ask if I had heard of Trefor Bazett,” recalls Mathew Geddes, Head of Mathematics at SMUS. “The student had seen the name on a printed wood wall board in our chapel that lists graduates of our school. The student was so excited; this must be the same person as @DrTrefor on YouTube, the channel that had ‘saved them’ through AP Calculus and summer courses at UC Berkeley.”

It was through this connection that led Mr. Geddes to reach out to Trefor and extend an invitation to be a guest lecturer at SMUS for the Advanced Topics in Mathematics class. It was an invitation that Trefor did not turn down and has accepted more than once.

“This connection illustrates the impact that Dr. Bazett is having across the world through his high-level, engaging video series,” highlighted Mr. Geddes. “When I mentioned to my students that he would be coming to present on Knot Theory, (and later Mathematical modelling), the students were over the moon. Of the fifteen people in the class, students from eight countries, six of them acknowledged that they were familiar with his channel (independently of each other), and it was evident that, in their eyes, he had already achieved celebrity-status.”

Alumni Trefor Bazett shakes hand with a presenter at the PIMS Conference as he receives his award certificate.

A Love of Math

It wasn’t all love at first sight for Trefor and mathematics. At SMUS, Trefor was actually more interested in physics and computer science. He enjoyed math but never expected to pursue it as part of his education or career. What he learned, though, is that math is part of everything and the more math he had to do in physics and computer science, the harder it was to deny his fate.

“SMUS really helped my preparation for university,” credited Trefor. “I work with lots of students who are struggling with the high school to university transition, and in my experience what matters most isn't precisely what highschool courses you have or have not taken, it is whether your high school experience has helped support a spirit of inquisitiveness to your learning. I think SMUS gives a lot of opportunities to develop that kind of approach.”

To the students who have likely at some point bucketed themselves as either ‘bad at math ’or ‘good at math’ Dr. Trefor offers this advice: “Neither is really true, and both are problematic in different ways. Instead, having a growth mindset about your mathematical abilities where you can improve and learn and use and enjoy mathematics makes a world of difference, and anybody can do those things.”

Trefor becomes the 27th winner of the prize, awarded annually since 1998. Recently, he announced that he is taking a 15-month study leave to pursue his YouTube channel. You can find ‘Dr. Trefor’ online at: