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Math Department Faculty Member Wins Creative Teaching Award

Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - 2:08pm
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Math Department Faculty David Gay

The Creative Teaching Award committee has selected David Gay and graphic design professor Moon Jung Jang as co-winners for a 2020 Creative Teaching Award! 

Professors Gay and Jang have brought together mathematics and art to enrich the learning experience of students.  Most recently, a class they taught in collaboration led to a model featured on the cover of the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in October 2018. A link to this work is here:

 http://www.pnas.org/content/115/43.cover-expansion

The model was produced by students who participated in an experiential learning course titled "Mathematics Outreach Design Lab", collaboratively taught in Spring 2018 by Professors Gay and Jang.  In this course, advanced undergraduate math and math education majors worked closely with advanced students from the Lamar Dodd School of Art's graphic design program on ways to convey deep and beautiful mathematical ideas to a broad audience.  In this course, they created concrete outcomes which came together in an an exhibition at the Lamar Dodd School at the end of the semester which served as a "pop-up math museum".  During the course, Dr. Gay presented a range of advanced topics chosen as particularly appropriate for the outreach context, giving the students mini-lectures combined with design activities, while Dr. Jang trained the students in appropriate design practices. The student work came in the form of four extended group projects, which steadily increased in complexity and professionalism and culminated in museum quality products. The math majors learned some rigorous advanced mathematics which they were unlikely to see in any standard course.  They experienced the pedagogical and mathematical challenges of bringing these ideas to a collaboration with sophisticated artists with little mathematical training. The art students had the professionally valuable experience of working with artistically untrained but enthusiastic clients.  They learned some mathematics themselves, and engaged in fascinating problem solving processes that showed them that, in many ways, they are already "doing mathematics" in their regular design work.

This was not the first collaboration between Professors Gay and Jang; the previous year, they ran an innovative interdisciplinary Saturday workshop in collaboration with photography MFA student Matthew Flores, titled "unsolved:math+de-sign".  The workshop was sponsored in part by UGA's Ideas for Creative Exploration (ICE). Eight math students and eight design students worked together all day, beginning with a warm up design activity, then grappling with an intriguing unsolved problem in geometry, and then bringing the two activities together to design math outreach products for use in contexts ranging from schools to museums.

The innovations of Professors Gay and Jang creatively link STEM and the arts in a way that enhances the learning of students in both disciplines.  They are well-deserved recipients of the Creative 
Teaching Award!

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