Mixed groups of SIT and UOG students tackle project-based learning tasks in first such undertaking by the Department of Mathematical Sciences
Thirteen University of Guam (UOG) students joined 23 Shibaura Institute of Technology (SIT) students for a global project-based learning (PBL) event on mathematical sciences at SIT’s Omiya Campus on June 7-9, 2018. This was the first event using the PBL teaching method held at the Department of Mathematical Sciences. A workshop, the second such joint undertaking between the universities, also took place under the theme of “Pure mathematics/Applied mathematics and computer science.”
On the first day, the students participated in an orientation and campus tour, after which they attended an event to help students meeting for the first time interact with each other. Keynote bingo was among the activities they did to break the ice.
The students were split into five mixed groups, each of which tackled a different task. For example, the group given the “automata” task received a briefing on the concept and working of an automaton, one mathematical model of computer science, from a professor. These students then deepened their understanding of this topic by actually building automata. The group assigned the “footstep illusion” theme learned about various phenomena of these visual illusions and then made an original animation featuring such an illusion. The “surefire game-winning methods” group was divided into a few teams, which tried to come up with certain ways to win various games. These methods had to be mathematically explained, which required the students to think logically about them. The students wrote and explained mathematical formulas on the whiteboard and engaged in lively discussions.
On the final day, each group presented the results of its PBL. This was followed by the workshop at which undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty members from SIT and UOG made presentations about their research. SIT students confidently answered questions from faculty members in English.
“Preparing for the PBL was difficult because it was the first time the Department of Mathematical Sciences had held such an event, but it was really beneficial,” said Professor Tetsuya Ishiwata of the department. “I’d like to use this experience for future events.”
Assistant Professor Yoshifumi Takenouchi of UOG also was impressed by the PBL and the workshop. “I think UOG students were tremendously inspired by the presentations delivered by first- and second-year graduate students,” Takenouchi said, pointing to the fact that many of the UOG students were in the undergraduate level or about to enter graduate school.
One student who enjoyed participating in the PBL said: “When I attended a previous international PBL in Thailand, the theme was unrelated to my specialized field, but this time we had the common language of mathematics. Usually, studying mathematics tends to require doggedly conducting research alone. Holding discussions with students who have learned mathematics based on a different curriculum gave me new insights. I’ve learned a lot.”
The students held discussions in English and used their “universal language” of mathematical formulas to clear their assigned tasks. SIT and UOG likely will boost their exchanges by, for example, holding workshops in other fields.