Reflection on DREI96

Duncan Chiu (
Sat, 29 Mar 1997 10:58:58 -0500

Hi everyone,

Ira said it all. I just want to add a few words to his writing.

1. DREI96 gave me the inspiration, but more importantly, the courage to
experiment. Three weeks of association with a select group of people
drew out the creative part of me. The paper "On The Other Side of The
Desk" wouldn't have materialized, had it not been for the support I
received from many people in this group.

2. For the last month or so, with a new class of 22 seniors and 2
juniors in Discrete Mathematics, I embarked on a new journey. I jumped
right into the Information Highway, asking students to search for topics
on Fractals. We spent over a week having each group of 2 to 4 presenting
its findings to the classmates. The result was mixed. Two students
backed out right before their designated time to present. Most students
loved the freedom and independence in the basic structure of research.
All, of course, loved the absence of the tests. One student was lost in
the new approach, regretting the fact that she signed up for the course.
She probably wonders why there is no teaching taking place.

3. Did you ever get on a super highway at the wrong entrance and found
yourself wondering when you could get off? The fact is you were at a
point of no return until the next exit, which seems forever long and
far down the road. Well, I am in that stretch of the Information
Highway: at a point of no return. I can't go back to the traditional
teaching and besides, the students wouldn't let me. So here we are
having them doing Internet search in Math with magic, music, arts,
Fibonacci numbers, sports, and microbrewery. We are also having six
students competing on Sim Tower (a testing case, pending on computer
setup, etc.)

4. For the last two days, just to top it off, we were making tetrahedron
kites in my Precalculus class. Didn't fly well though. Hopefully some of
them will make it next Monday so we can do some measurements. It was
meant for the introduction to the trigonometry chapter. I won't tell you
the reactions from both students and my colleagues. Wait 'til my boss
calls me in, right?

I have to confess this is one of the best years of my teaching career
for I am doing what I have always wanted to do. The jury is not in yet,
but I always felt I could teach differently and make a life-long impact
on my students. DREI gave me the essential push, and the Internet
connected me to a group of dynamite teachers and researchers who
provided the critical moral support.

Having said all this, I could use more suggestions and ideas on the use
of the Internet. Basically I asked my students to research one area of
their interest and its relation to math; study their findings and teach
their classmates. I also suggested finding sites with lesson plans for
teachers, but I am not sure if they have found any. I may ask them to
write it up for documentation purpose, but I know the resistence.

Lastly, DREI got me more involved with the Internet which provided me
with a fast way to get my high-school mates together for a 40-year
reunion in Vancouver, Canada this summer. I don't think this would have
happened without the Internet. So far, we have classmates and teachers
coming from Hong Kong, Australia, U.S., Canada, and maybe Scotland.

Thank you all and let us remain connected!