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Faculty Q&A with Math and Physics Teacher Linli Chin

Authored By: 
James Vescovi, English Teacher

Known for her hands-on teaching, Linli Chin grew up in Malaysia. While she enjoyed all subjects, from an early age she remembers the principles of chemistry, math, and physics coming easily to her. After attending college in Malaysia and at Fresno State University in California, she earned a B.S. at Baruch College with a degree in business and industrial psychology.  During college, Linli had done internships in the financial sector of the business world, but found the environment not to her liking.  “Most of the people lived to work. I love my work, but I like to enjoy other things in life,” she says. In 2000, she began tutoring in math and physics at The Tutoring School and, working one-on-one with students, discovered how much she enjoyed helping young people understand how the world around them works.  A year later, she was hired as a full-time teacher at The Beekman School and has never looked back.

 

You have a reputation for being a hands-on science teacher. Can you give an example?

One of the most popular activities with students is my egg-drop project. Here students create a container holding three eggs that can survive a fall from the third floor of our building. It’s a great way of applying Newton’s laws of motion and gravity, as well as principles surrounding air resistance. The kids come up with amazing and ingenious packages—some are heavily cushioned with materials like cotton and socks, while others contain parachutes.

What about field trips?

I do a fair number, and they’re always fun, but even the bowling field trip isn’t without an educational aspect.   What most people don’t know is that the end of the bowling lane is oiled. That’s why when you roll a ball too slowly, about ten feet from the pins, it begins to slide left or right towards the gutter. And that’s why the best pro-bowlers put a spin on their ball so that it hooks itself around the oiled area before striking the pins. There’s a lot of physics in bowling.

Are you a good bowler?

I’m so-so. But my sister and mother are both champion caliber. The sport is very popular in Malaysia. I grew up with it.  I love explaining to the students how physics applies to bowling and see their eyes light up. Sometimes, their scores even improve.

Any other excursions?

In the spring, we do a kite-building/flying unit, where Bernoulli’s principles on velocity and pressure are observed on the grounds of the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. It’s always a fun time leading up to the trip as the students get to make their own kites from a variety of templates, which come complete with their own spines and bright tails. We always hope for a sunny and windy day in order to allow for the pressure differences on the kites to create that upward lift force! I love watching students tug and pull on the kite strings like excited children to make their kites fly even higher!

Everyone says you’re famous for “Pie Day.”

Actually, it’s “Pi Day,” pi being the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the diameter. The number, which is so important to both math and physics, goes on forever, but it starts with 3.141592653589793238462643…Of course, we celebrate pi on 3.14, March 14. That day, we have trivia quizzes and games like seeing who can remember the most digits of pi. And, of course, this being New York, we serve pizza pie for lunch and everyone brings in fruit pies of various kinds. Even students who aren’t in my classes trickle upstairs to nibble.

Sounds like an intellectual feast.

Very funny. But the truth is, yes, I want my students to dig into math and physics like it’s a meal. There’s nothing better or more satisfying for me than to see them gain a deeper understanding of the things they see day in and day out.

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