2015 Summer International Course at Shanghai University

Mathematics in Daily Life

A class photo

From left to right
Row 3 Hao Hang Yu, Chang Liu, Li Feng Guo, Li Jun Gao, Yi Mang Wang, Lujie Liu, Haochuan Chen, Yong Liu, Hangtao Liu, Lei Wang, Yi Lang Lu
Row 2 Lei Huang, Yangyang Zhou, Yining Lin, Sheng Liu, Yishun Huang, Zhenbin Li, Xue Ying Liu, Yuxi Weng, Wen Qiang Huang, Haonan Yang, Songjie Dou .
Row 1 Chi-Kwong Li, Wangchun Peng, Zeya Guo, Yiqing Jin, Jun Lin Hou, Jie Liu, Yifan (Ann) Li, Huang Yan Pan, Ya Liu, Hui Xia Chen, Jia Li Wu.


Course Description

This course aims at helping students to develop the mathematical literacy to see the connections and applications of mathematics to daily life activities. The course consists of two components:

Format and structure

June 15 (Monday) 8:00-10:00 a.m.

June 16 (Tuesday) 3:00-5:00 p.m.

June 17 (Wednesday) 3:00-5:00 a.m.

June 18/19 (Thursday/Friday) 8:00-10:00/10:00-noon

Objectives of the course/expected learning outcome

As participants, students will learn:

As presenters, students will learn how to:

Course work and assessment [Some notes on the assessment scheme]

       Class participation.                                          25%
       Evaluations/summary of presentations of other speakers.       25%
       Presentation.                                                 25%
       Written report.                                               25%

Presentation schedules, ppt/pdf files, articles.

Afterthought about the course - Mathematics in Daily Life (Chi-Kwong Li)

1. Objective of the mini-semester

My understanding is that the goal of the mini-semester is to provide a variety of 
topics for students at SHU to experience different educational models, and gain 
some international experience. It is a wonderful idea.

In this connection, my course on  ``Mathematics in Daily Life'' is to let students 
see that mathematics is not just about formulas and technical proofs. It is related 
to different topics  and also daily life activities if one can make the connection.

Also, I want to let the students see that one should not passively receive knowledge 
in the classroom at the university level. One should learn how to make connections of 
of their knowledge acquired from their instructors and textbooks to the outside world. 
Nowadays, it is easy to get a lot of information from different sources, one needs to 
select useful information, make suitable connections, and make good use of them in 
order to be successful in future study and work. Training students to do this is 
consistent with the idea of ``break the four barriers'' emphasized by the former 
president of the Shanghai University.

It is also worth pointing out that even though my course does not emphasize
technical mathematics, the discussion can easily lead to study at the research
level. What I want to demonstrate is: one can make the connections according
to his/her own interest and background that will lead to different levels
of appreciation, utilization, and even pursuing  research in mathematics.

2. Students

Most students saw the difference between my course and the mathematics courses in 
the past experience. Asking them to  change their learning mode, and use English to 
communicate is challenging. This obviously move them away from their comfort zone of
writing examination, answering technical questions on papers.

Compared with the group of students I saw last year, many students in my class this year
seemed to have problems in understanding English and communicating in English. Some of 
them did not even try in their presentations. Registering for the mini-semester, the 
students should prepare to face a different language environment during. Always requesting 
the use of Chinese to explain concepts and refusing to speak in English is not a good idea. 
It is important to try one's best in the learning process. Never-the-less, I am happy 
that students were able to come up with a presentation and a report in a very short 
period of time. Of course, there is much room for improvements.  In any event, it is not 
the goal of this short course to teach students  ``all'' the techniques in communicating 
mathematics orally and in writing. Nonetheless, it is the hope that students would 
learn from their experience and those of others so that they would be able to improve 
themselves continuously in communicating ideas (mathematics or other subjects). 
Thus, instead of  a learning experience in one course, it will become a life long 
educational experience. In fact, in real life, one may indeed have to finish a task
in a short notice of time, and give a presentation with time limits. So, in a sense
the course provides some experience in real life setting. In addition, working with
other team mates, and giving constructive comments to other classmates are also part
of the training related to real life situations. Hopefully, students see that there
are many other skills that will help their future study and work besides technical 

3. Possible improvements

I also learn a great deal in this course. There are much could be improved
under the current setting.

a) Before meeting the students, I can put up more sample and proposed projects 
   on my course website. Then students can choose tentative topics for their 
   presentations even in day one, and form different groups according to their 
   common interest.

b) I could encourage students to talk to me more in the first 3 days so that
   they could get guidance for the preparation of their presentations.

c) The idea of teaching buddies is a wonderful idea. Especially, I had a devoted 
   teaching buddy this year. He went to every class with the me, gave feedback and 
   shared experience with the me, and helped me with the university computer system. 
   Hopefully, the teaching buddy could gain some useful experience in the process.

d) It is really unfortunate that the Google search engine, and gmail are blocked. 
   It has huge negative impact on the teaching for some instructors such as myself 
   who rely heavily on these websites to find useful information and demonstrating
   material to students.

Some possible topics and useful references

Summary and evaluation form