2017 Silver Circle winner Andrew Shulman
Since 1966, the Silver Circle Award has been presented to some of UIC’s best teachers. Winners, who are honored at their college commencements, receive $500 and their names join a long list of distinguished colleagues. But what makes the award especially meaningful is its selection committee: the graduating seniors.
Most of the students Andrew Shulman teaches in his calculus courses are freshmen and sophomores, so he was particularly humbled to win his first Silver Circle from graduating seniors.
“It means a lot that they have remembered me,” said Shulman, lecturer in math, statistics and computer science. “It means that I must have made some sort of impact and that’s my goal — that they enjoy the class and the material.”
The calculus courses he teaches include as many as 140 students in a large lecture hall. He implements active learning principles to help students succeed and keeps students engaged by highlighting the applications of the math they are learning.
“I try every single day to show students when they will need this in the future,” he said. “Having them understand that the material will be used at some point in the future is very important in keeping them motivated.”
He also aims to have students understand why they need to learn certain mathematical concepts.
“We learn why the formulas that the students have been using forever are actually true,” he said. “They’ve memorized them, but now they can see where this formula came from.”
Shulman teaches an “Introduction to Proofs” course for sophomores and juniors, with about 20 students in the course. He encourages students to learn from their peers in that course, he said.
“It’s not so much me lecturing; it’s more of me helping them to understand the material in their own way,” he said.
A number theorist, he works with reductions of elliptic curves and Drinfeld modules. He joined UIC as a Ph.D. student in 2006 and was offered a lecturer position when he finished his program in 2011.
Shulman figured out in high school that he wanted to dedicate his career to teaching math.
“I’ve always liked teaching and math,” he said. “I hope that my students can find something they enjoy doing and follow that.”