He is a doer. You can easily see that about Professor G. Michael Guy, Assistant Professor at Queensborough Community College, just by taking a quick glance at his website. Being a CUNY Improving Mathematics Learning grant winner and a 2011 Chancellor’s Mathematics Instruction Award winner, he never seems to be fully content with his present self and is always striving for a better and improved self. Professor Guy picked one of his favorite burger joints on the Upper East Side for our interview.
You are a self-claimed food-lover, but are you a vegetable-hater? I noticed your burger doesn’t have lettuce or tomato on it.
I’m not a vegetable-hater, but tomatoes are one of the very few things I don’t really like. I’m still a food-lover.
Okay. It’s always fun to talk about good restaurants and different kinds of food, especially in New York. What’s your favorite place to eat?
I like to try new things and have spent lots of time in Flushing in the last few years. There’s a food court at the bottom of the New World Mall on Main Street, and it’s a fun place to have a food adventure. You can try out all kinds of Asian dishes.
What else do you enjoy in your free time other than eating?
When I’m looking for a change of pace from doing math and work, I often spend time programming. I have two fun websites I launched over the last year focused on strategy for two popular games Hanging with Friends and Scramble with Friends. I programmed solvers and analyzed the outcome to help people improve their game play. Some may think using my websites are cheating, but I think this is just a highly informed strategy.
Do you like music?
I don’t listen to music. There’s no music on my iPod.
(Gasp!) I’m shocked. I assumed EVERYONE likes some type of music.
Not me. It mostly sounds like noise to me.
Well then. Let’s talk about math education. One of the projects you’ve been conducting with Professors Cornick, Holt, and Russell at QCC is Arithmetic WARM UPS. It’s a modularized and accelerated program for students in the basic arithmetic course, which has been producing positive outcomes.
Yes, this is the second semester to scale the project to about 1,000 students and 20 instructors. It’s a lot of work to track the data of this many students and instructors, but the results seem to be equally good.
According to your website, you’re working on some other projects as well. Tell us a little about them.
Some of my colleagues and I are currently working on a small, locally-funded study. We’re focusing on helping students in remedial math courses develop good study skills and study habits. Our department and our college as a whole are very supportive for trying new ideas. I’ve been learning a lot through these projects, becoming a part of research communities and implementing interventions based on data and outcomes, not just on our intuition.
It’s evident that you and your colleagues care so much about your students. Did you have a good model? Who was the teacher who influenced you the most when you were a student?
I have been influenced by many teachers, including the ones who taught me things like how you shouldn’t treat your students. Of course, I have learned from many great teachers and professors also. As far as the best and most influential teacher goes, it was Dr. Pat Rickels at the University of Louisiana. She was the director of their honors program when I was an undergrad. She was one of the people who helped open my eyes to the world beyond myself, and taught me to appreciate it.
The topics of our conversation ranged widely from some stereotypical questions we have gotten based on where we’re from (e.g., “Do you have alligators in your yard?” “Do you eat sushi every day?”) to our pets (his cat Clara and my dog Basil; we had to show their photos to each other, of course). Or at least we seem to have talked about them. The burger and fries, with chocolate chip custard in addition to them, made the accuracy of my memories highly questionable. Thank goodness I recorded the entire session.
(This interview was conducted on February 10, 2012)