Andy Liu is a math professor with a reputation, and not for the mental torture and intellectual pain many of us associate with math lessons.
In fact, Liu is in such good standing with students that they often enrol in his classes because they've heard good things about him. As Tom Lassu, a recent graduate of the Faculty of Engineering, puts it: "[Liu's] reputation as an excellent instructor is the reason for which students such as myself are willing to rearrange an entire term schedule in order to attend his lectures."
The business, education, engineering, science, and arts students who take Liu's math classes also say that his joviality and accessibility are drawing cards. The math professor, who recently received a 1993 Rutherford Teaching Award, is known for a quirky sense of humor, which is apparent in his constantly smiling countenance and even in his office, where the desk is covered with a variety of mathematical puzzles and games, and two filing cabinet drawers are labelled "Top Secret" and "Bottom Secret."
Noting that Liu routinely gave out his home phone number as a mathematics crisis line, one student says, "Never have I known a professor to be so flexible in his dealings with students, regardless of when or why we needed his help."
A top math student while he attended high school at Hong Kong's New Method College, Liu studied mathematics at McGill University before coming to Edmonton to complete grad studies in mathematics and a diploma in education. Even outside the classroom he is devoted to mathematics. Since coming to the U of A as a faculty member in 1980, Liu has founded a mathematics club for interested elementary and junior high school students. He also produces Postulate, a mathematics newsletter intended to stimulate interest in mathematics among high school students and to provide their teachers with material to draw upon. Further to his pursuit of excellence in mathematics, Liu is a volunteer organizer and administrator of mathematical competitions at the provincial, national and international levels.
Liu says with a laugh that mathematics is a "young person's game," and his work with young mathematicians has proved it. Through an international math competition, two of Liu's teen-aged math club members earned the right to attend a summer school in Russia, to which Liu accompanied them this year. Last year, three eighth-grade members of the club published a mathematical paper in an international journal.
Liu clearly enjoys working with young people. He describes mathematics as "a laboratory for life" and says, "I don' t want students to tell me the answer — I know the answer. I want to see people solving problems," he says.
A colleague in the Department of Mathematics attributes Liu's teaching success I to his abilitv to organize, simplify and I unify, and to explain key principles of I mathematical argument clearly, concisely I and thoroughly. The fellow professor also I praises the "almost never ending search for better ways of treating a subject" for , which Liu is known — a pursuit any , teacher could be proud of.
Published Autumn 1993.