March 11, 2014

Visiting Professor: Students Need More Math, Not Less

Manhattan Community College professor lectures how to better engage students by showing examples during GSU lecture series

Visiting professor Brett Sims addresses lecture attendees emphasizing the importance of math.
Visiting professor Brett Sims addresses lecture
attendees emphasizing the importance of math.

Grambling State University Media Bureau

Grambling, LA - Brett Sims, who actually loves math, has a deep concern: “Students know less mathematics today with more technology than when my father was in school and they had no technology.”

Knowing math means knowing yourself and knowing your surroundings, and we all need to know those things, he said.

Sims, an associate mathematics professor at Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York, returned to Grambling State University to deliver the Region Endowed Chair Lecture Series at Carver Hall Feb. 27. Sims, also known as Abdur-Rahman Munajj, was the head of the GSU math and computer science department from 2005-2009.  This was his first time back on campus in four years.

Considered a star among some in the math world, Sims filled the Carver Hall auditorium with students, faculty and staff to hear and see his inspirational lecture about subjects that many find challenging and difficult. A tall, thin man worked out some mathematical problems on the whiteboard and a smart board, letting students see what he was doing, and why, so they could understand. He wanted them to visualize and understand the concepts.

During the program Sims talked about his experiences working with students during the summer. He explained that it was rare to see young students enthusiastic about learning about mathematics and sciences. One student who did work with Sims was Kimmerly Walker. Attending Grambling State as a biology major, she used concepts he taught and recently earned a doctorate degree.

“The Region Endowed Chair Lecture Series was a very good and informative program, it was a clear presentation,” said Leummim Yao, a mathematics assistant professor that came to GSU at the same time as Sims in 2004-2005. Yao said Sims’ return to GSU inspired students because he helps students understand why they enjoy math.

Another faculty member agreed. “Dr. Sims was one of the leaders that encouraged me to leave Lincoln University in Pennsylvania that is my alma mater to come to Grambling almost over seven years ago, I was the first distinguished professor at Lincoln University in 1997,” said Abdulalim A. Shabazz, the Regions Endowed Chair in Mathematics. “The lecture was very fantastic, insightful, and brilliant; whenever I hear something new I learn something new. I am forever a student.”

Sims said math mentors and professors need three things to be successful with students:  “a big bag of skills, experiences, and a big bag of friendship.” Working with all three students will be more creative, and be successful.

“It is imperative to continue to teach students in understandable and marvelous ways,” explained Sims. If more teachers engage students by helping them understand by showing rather than telling, Sims said there wouldn’t be as much need for developmental math courses.

Sims’ overall goal is to maintain a tradition of commitment to nurture students intellectually, ethically and socially, helping them reach their full potential.

“If I could give any advice to college students who wish to make good grades in college mathematics or even teach,” said Sims, “it is study mathematics every day.”

Students and faculty attend lyceum committee lecture.
Students and faculty attend lyceum committee lecture.

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Media Contact:
Will Sutton




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