(Written in 2004)
Last year was the first time I started to teach. I am always feel a bit uncomfortable to teach at the beginning of the semester since I dont know my students and my students dont know me. Most of the time I feel like I am a crazy man who keep talking to myself in the public place for an hour. Moreover I am terrible at making joke too. However once time pass, I always feel more comfortable. some aspects about the teaching that I like are to get to know new people and learn more about society.
Below is the 6 common questions students used to ask:
1. How to pronounce my name?
Actually it is pronounced as it is written except there is no "da" sound at the end. So you say it like " tot-sa-pawn " " ta-na-ti-pa-non" . So why do I have "da" at the end while there is no sound? All I can tell you is Thai goverment not allowed me spell my own name. They hire an expert who supposed to know sanskit and english well and I have to write my own name whatever they want. Not only the "da" thing that I bother me , but I also don't like the word "porn" in my name. Sometimes people make fun out of it (ie. at the video store). Anyway nothing I can do about it and most of the time people call me using my nickname "Aek", so everything is fine, really. :-) So how do I get the name "Aek"? All of Thai people have a nickname. This is reasonable since the first and last name are so long and sound way to formal. My parents gave me this name since I was born. It is one of the most popular nickname in Thailand. Everywhere you go, there will be couple of people have the same name as you. " Aek " in many language means "first". I don't like the meaning so much, it sounds too ambitious.
2. How old I am?
This one is a really hard problem to answer. It is a good question actually. But it might take me a while to figure how to answer this question.
3. Do I like math?
If you ask me this one in the class room, I will definitely say "no, I hate math too". The reason is that I just want to blend in with the crowd. It is hard to find the answer for this one. Since everyone who do math always have a bad day and a good day. When I was young, I had a lot of good days in math. But these days I think the bad days start to catch up with good days. Example of a good day: when you understand theorem or be able to solve the problems. Example of a bad day: when you sit down for 2-3 hours and not getting anywhere. However the professor here at Rutgers are very nice and willing to help me to learn math. I hope I will have many more of good days in the future.
4. How to get a good grade in Calculus?
I think the most imporant thing is to know how to do homeworks and review problems. You should keep doing them until you understand them. I think the combination between sitting down and doing homework and coming to my office hour to ask me when you get stuck is the best way to study.
5. What are we learning Math for?
Everytime people ask me this question I feel like they are asking "What is the purpose of life?". To tell you the truth, I don't know. (May be I'm just not even bothered to defend this question.) Strangely, I hardly asked this question to myself. I always feel good to understand more stuffs and that is fun.
6. What am I gonna do after I graduate?
If I can graduate at all, I will try to apply for a academic job in the US first which mean I want to become a math professor. If I could not find an academic job, I will try to apply an outside job in the US, anything I can do. Worst case is going back to Thailand. But even that is not so bad in term of hanging out. That case I will have more free time to read math and to hang out with my parents, brother and sister.