Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics
Diana Cheng puts a real-life spin on mathematics.
The assistant professor, who is also a competitive figure skater, employs various aspects of the sport as a framework for teaching algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus ideas to her education students. Think exploring the Olympic judging system, which is a rubric to assign scores based on elements (spins and jumps) performed, or investigating the skate blade tracings a pair makes while performing the “death spiral.”
“I am interested in developing cognitively challenging mathematical activities for pre-service teachers that are situated in interesting and motivating contexts,” says Cheng, who has found that relating mathematics to a hobby or interest is an effective way to engage students in mathematical concepts.
Some are even inspired to develop lessons based on personal hobbies or interests to use in their own classrooms.
One of Cheng’s pre-service education students is using dance to teach the middle school topic of multiples and common factors. Another is developing activities for high school students applying algebra and statistics to simulate animal population changes in a project designed to explore ways of preserving endangered species.
“Mathematics is part of everything we do,” says Cheng.
“These concepts become more accessible for students if they can relate them to real-life examples.”