Math lecturer Veselin Jungic stands before some of the illustrations from the Math Catcher program's "Small Number" video series, which explains mathematical concepts using Aboriginal traditions and culture, and has been translated into 10 Aboriginal languages. "The series will have lasting implications," he says.

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Veselin Jungic appointed 3M National Teaching Fellow

February 17, 2015
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By Diane Luckow

Senior math lecturer Veselin Jungic, associate chair of Simon Fraser University’s math department, experienced a proud moment recently. He met with three of his former students during a visit to Oxford University in England, and they reminisced about his classes.

“They’re brilliant students and I taught them years ago, but they were so happy to share their memories with me,” he says. “That was a proud moment—to see that those classes are still part of their memories about SFU and mathematics.”

Another gratifying moment came earlier this month when he learned that the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) had selected him as a 3M National Teaching Fellow—one of just 10 Canadians to receive this honour in 2015.

He is in good company—a select group of 278 Fellows whose work “embodies the highest ideals of teaching excellence and scholarship with a commitment to encourage and support the educational experience of every learner.”

He and his fellow recipients will attend the STLHE 2015 annual conference (co-hosted by SFU and UBC) in Vancouver in June, as well as a retreat in Banff in November.

While the fellowship acknowledges Jungic’s teaching prowess, including his creative classroom approaches using physical models and custom videos to help students visualize abstract concepts, it also recognizes his significant outreach efforts to promote and encourage mathematics and scholarship among Aboriginal students.

Four years ago, he established the Math Catcher Program—Mathematics through Aboriginal storytelling. It encompasses math tools and activities incorporating Aboriginal traditions and cultures, as well as school visits throughout B.C., and workshops and math camps at SFU for Aboriginal high school students.

“Working with students in the Aboriginal University Prep Program has confirmed my belief that there is no lack of talent and interest for mathematics among Aboriginal learners,” he says.

“It has also convinced me that additional effort should be made to reach out to Aboriginal elementary and high school students and to help them recognize the importance of mathematics and how mathematics forms the basis for many of our daily decisions and life-long choices.”

Jungic, who has taught at SFU since 2001, has won many awards for his teaching, including the Canadian Mathematical Society’s 2012 Excellence in Teaching Award and a 2007 SFU Excellence in Teaching Award.

He is the second SFU math teacher to win a 3M Fellowship. Malgorzata Dubiel received a fellowship in 2008.

Jungic is also deputy director of SFU’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in the Mathematical and Computational Sciences (IRMACS). He credits this institution as well as the Faculty of Science, the math department, and the Pacific Institute for Mathematical Sciences for supporting his teaching and outreach endeavours.