Fellow Profile: Qiyam Tung
- G-TEAMS Cohort: 2011-12
- Graduate Program: Computer Science
- Teacher Partner: Alison Cornell
- School: Desert View High School
- Grade level: 10-12
- Topics: A.P. Calculus, Precalculus, and Algebra II
"It is a paradox that mathematics, out of all subjects, should be a mystery to students. That's like thinking that logic is illogical. Not only is mathematics perfectly understandable, but it is the basis for all technology and helps us make sense of the world around us."
Qiyam's research is in computer vision applications and is involved with the Semantically Linked Instructional Content (SLIC) Project. The project's goal is to improve education by extracting text, images, and other content from a lecture and use it to enhance the educational experience. For example, the current system uses computer vision to find when each slide is being shown on the screen. Semantic units, such as text or images, can also be magnified when relevant to help users who are watching on mobile devices. For more information, please see this YouTube video on Qiyam's work.
Qiyam is working Alison Cornell at Desert View High School on the subjects of Algebra, Pre-Calculus, and Calculus. Qiyam's goals are not to make students mathematicians or even computer scientists, but rather to impress upon them the beauty of logic, abstraction, and the science of data computation. Above all else, his goal is for them to respect the idea that no mathematical idea is inaccessible to them.
Qiyam's main contributions to the classroom are
- Assigning reading assignments and having discussions about the philosophy, application, and education of mathematics.
- Discussing how technology can be understood mathematically (i.e. GPS tracking can be done by solving systems of equations).
- Showing how the general field of computer science and computer vision/machine learning works from simple mathematical abstractions.
- Giving challenging problems and puzzles.
- Showing fun math videos not necessarily related to high school mathematics. Some examples include Vi Hart's excellent videos, like the infinity elephants and the story of Wind and Mr. Ug.
This year, with the help of Alison, I have developed a greater sense of how to communicate with a foreign audience. At first glance, it seems like a terrible tragedy that many great ideas and developments are beyond the understanding of a high school student. However, this is simply untrue and is more a test of whether the communicator understands his subject from all angles. As Einstein said, "if you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." Having said that, explaining it simply is only half the problem. A teacher's task is to understand the general background of the students and to relate the concept from their perspective. The fact that a high school environment is so divorced from its college counterpart is a great way of learning how to innovate new explanations.
But what is it that motivates students to learn math? The answer was not as simple as I had thought. To find a single concept that intrigues all students is probably impossible. But every example helps to encourage students to explore mathematics whether it is using the difference of squares to do fast multiplication or using lines to determine how hit detection works in video games. I have come to realize that motivating students is an active process and requires a great amount of patience.
For a fellow like myself, taking the time to prepare a lesson is not an issue. But teachers have at least 5 classes of differing levels to teach and have to do so for 5 days a week. On top of that, the unpredictability of the adminstration to change a day's schedule can really throw off even a well-prepared lesson. Since I started working with Alison, I haved gained much more respect for a teachers' responsibilities and their ability to cope with these issues. This experience has made me much more aware of the challenges educators face in this country and the need to improve education on all levels.
- Algebra 2