December 04, 2017

SIU Professor Cheng-Yao Lin to share math expertise in Taiwan as Fulbright Specialist

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Cheng-Yao Lin’s expertise and experience in math education have earned him a spot in the elite Fulbright Specialist Program, providing him an almost six-week trip to Taipei, Taiwan, to share his knowledge with future and current educators there.

Lin is a professor in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s College of Education and Human Services and he is visiting the National Taichung University of Education from Dec. 2 to Jan. 8, 2018. Lin underwent an extensive application and vetting process with the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Exchange Programs in order to be chosen as a Fulbright Specialist. Selection is limited to those who are deemed highly experienced, well-established experts in their fields.

Sharing American math education methods

“I’m looking forward to sharing my perspective on mathematics knowledge and education with an international audience,” Lin said. “I will be telling them about American teaching techniques and learning more about their methods. I want to know more about their recent teacher training and compare it to ours.”

Lin noted that in recent years, American mathematics education has shifted toward a focus on teaching for understanding, assuring that students comprehend what they are doing rather than just learning to apply formulas and procedures. The teaching approach used in Taiwan is a more traditional format that relies heavily on written computation.

Through a series of lectures, workshops, seminars and other activities, Lin will work with teachers-in-training, teachers and administrators regarding theories and practices used successfully in mathematics education instruction in the United States. He will also assist in developing appropriate tools for testing mathematical skills and knowledge and help analyze the results. In addition, Lin will assist colleagues in preparing students for Taiwan’s new compulsory national tests for graduating teachers and will make recommendations for course revisions or other changes to assist students.

Spreading knowledge

Lin was recently chosen for a three-year term on the board of directors of the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics and he’ll be sharing with members of the mirror organization, the Taiwan Association for Mathematics Education. He’ll conduct a workshop, which will also be open to the public, about mathematical conceptual and procedural knowledge, complete with practical tips for learning math.  

Around the world, faculty members strive to have their research and work published in prestigious journals and venues. Lin will help his international colleagues learn about how to achieve publication in journals in the English language.

A homecoming, of sorts

Lin has been a part of the SIU Department of Curriculum and Instruction faculty since 2004, originally hired as an assistant professor and earning promotions to associate professor in 2010 and then to full professor in 2014. The trip to Taiwan will be somewhat of a homecoming because he earned his undergraduate degree in education at the University of Taipei in Taiwan more than 20 years ago. He subsequently completed his doctorate at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Going full circle from Taiwan to the U.S. then back and forth again to share his passion for math education is a rewarding experience, he said.

“By sharing knowledge and techniques and learning from one another within our specialty areas, we can bring about changes that benefit teachers and students internationally,” Lin said.