Ping-Tung Chang - Acceptance Speech

Remarks by Professor Ping-Tung Chang
2010 Outstanding Community Colleges U.S. Professor of the Year

Thank you. I am honored to be acknowledged for my achievements in American math education.

In 1957, Russia successfully launched the satellite Sputnik, creating a shockwave and uproar across both America and Europe. People were afraid that we were falling behind in math and science advancements. To catch up with Russia in the areas of space exploration and mathematics, a more theoretically mathematical education system was introduced. It was called "New Math." Unfortunately, this system was difficult for many teachers, who had no previous experience with it. Students and parents were also frustrated with this new math.

Around 1973, author Morris Kline wrote Why Johnny Can't Add, a bestseller that denounced the attempted change to new math. The critical failure of new math lead to a re-adaptation of the math system, a splintering into a series of math education reforms that led to greater funding and math legislation.

Of all the math education reforms, mathematician Georg Polya's "Problem-Solving Approach" has been most useful to me. Dr. Polya was a Stanford math professor, who published a book called, "How To Solve It." The book was originally introduced in 1953 and then rediscovered in the early 1970s.

Although the method has been around for nearly 50 years, it is just now attracting serious attention from math educators. I use a method that is similar to Polya's type to help teachers and alternate the traditional method of "teacher talks, students listen." This problem-solving method, which I call "Grow Your Own," is hands-on and interactive; students debate and discuss different methods to solve problems. I believe it is a non-threatening, easy to assemble, no-anxiety teaching method.

I appreciate the honor of being named Outstanding Community College Professor of the Year. Before coming to Washington, D.C., it seemed like a distant dream. Now, I have two more dreams:

  • I dream that I will be able to promote the "Grow Your Own" problem-solving method and provide in-service training for teachers on this effective method;
  • And I dream that we will be able to complete the funding for a scholarship at my college that enables students to attend classes at Matanuska-Susitna College

Finally, I would like to thank Chancellor Ulmer and Professor Talis Colberg for being here today and supporting me. And thanks to all of you for your time and for honoring me with this award.

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