Finding the right equation to encourage math students

Mathematician Po-Shen Loh addressing students at the Melia Nassau Beach Resort.

Mathematician Po-Shen Loh addressing students at the Melia Nassau Beach Resort.

HUNDREDS of students representing schools all over New Providence gathered at the Melia Nasau Beach Resort on Friday to hear the ideas of well-known mathematician Po-Shen Loh for a website that he is designing to make mathematics more approachable for pupils at all levels.

With a background in mathematics as well as computer science, Mr Loh aims to demonstrate that there is more to maths than what is taught in the classroom, while adding a fun aspect to the subject. He believes that, with the help of others, he can create a system that would help in convincing students in this regard.

Mr Loh - Associate Professor of Mathematics Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsbugh, and founder of Expii.com - explained to the students, teachers and representatives from the Ministry of Education that his aim was to provide math education to the whole world, while fundamentally shifting the attitude towards mathematics.

“Think of this as a way to deliver textbooks to every corner of your country for free,” Mr Loh said. “We are trying to provide this so that anyone in the world with a smart phone can get personalised education to help them learn mathematics.”

While conducting a brief tutorial with the teachers and subject co-ordinators, Mr Loh explained a benefit of the Expii programme. “If somebody was at home trying to figure out their homework or if somebody was in the situation where they are trying to take a math class that was not offered in their school because they had gone beyond the last level, this is a resource they can use.”

Mr Loh said the programme was not designed to replace teachers but to help them in their lesson delivery. “I think that the purpose of teachers is to provide this very unique experience that I think will be very hard for a computer to ever provide.”

Math students ranging from grades nine to 12 had a chance to speak and be photographed with the math genius.

“The event today was an unusual experience because … I never thought that math could be so extreme in a beautiful way. He helped me open my eyes to see that math is more than just hard work and numbers, but it actually can create something a little more advanced for our liking to help us better,” Tyeisha Collie, a student at Akhepran International Academy, said.

The event was sponsored by Templeton World Charity Foundation, whose mission is to find the world’s best minds and promote open-minded, forward-looking inquiry in a wide range of fields. The Foundation, founded by Sir John Templeton, is one of the main sponsors for Mr Po-Shen and the Expii programme and works with top academic institutions and leading experts from around the globe.

Tracey Farquharson, Executive Associate of the Foundation, said, “We want to share a lot of the work that our grantees are doing and we want to be able to share things that we think will benefit the community and the event was a great one to start with because it involves children and it promotes creativity. We want to see Expii grow and expand, we want to see some Bahamian students or teachers contribute to Expii.”

Many attendees left the math event feeling inspired while wanting to take their math studies to the next level. Dyontalee Turnquest Rolle, grade level co-ordinator and first grade teacher at the Eva Hilton Primary School, said she liked the overall concept of Expii. “I feel like we should have somewhere to go, similar to a reference point,” she said. “It gives us a start, it gives us exactly where to go to get credible information because what I get from it is that if something is found to be inappropriate it will be deleted. I like how Expii organizes everything and also the fact that the students wouldn’t have to actually interact with anybody, that will help the child because they can work freely.”

Po-Shen Loh received his undergraduate degree in mathematics from Caltech in 2004, graduating first in his class. He received a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Cambridge in 2005, and completed his Ph.D in mathematics at Princeton in 2009. He joined the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University in the same year. He is the national coach of the US International Mathematical Olympiad team.


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