Year Graduated: 2015
Program/Degree: Mathematics Education PhD
Thesis: University first year students’ discourse on continuous function: A comognitive interpretation
Aayubowan! (Greetings in my mother language—Singhalese.) My name is Gaya and I’m from Sri Lanka. I am a second year doctoral student in the Mathematics Education program in the Faculty of Education at SFU. I have worked as a secondary school teacher for almost 10 years in Sri Lanka. As a teacher, it was part of improving my teaching practice to look at how students think, struggle and understand mathematical concepts. As a learner, I look at myself going through the same stages. I’m interested in looking at how learners make meaning of mathematical concepts. I am also fascinated by the way language can affect the way that a learner constructs meaning for mathematical concepts. I like the abstract nature of mathematics and wonder how students who do not have a proper or familiar term for the word “abstract” in their language (for instance, in Singhalese), understand this beautiful concept in mathematics. I’m currently looking at how undergraduate students understand the concept of “continuity of a function” for my research. My goal after completing this program is to serve my country “the Pearl of the Indian Ocean” by helping mathematics teachers to educate their students in more effective ways.
Please tell us how you first discovered your program.
Mathematics education is just beginning to bloom in Sri Lanka as a field. I was one of the students in the first M.Sc. program in Mathematics Education initiated in the University of Colombo. I was fascinated by this new field and was inspired by Dr. Rapti de Silva who taught the course “teaching and learning mathematics”. I wanted to delve further in the field and was searching for a university for my PhD and one of my instructors in the M.Sc. program suggested SFU.
Please tell us why you chose the Faculty of Education at SFU for your studies.
After an instructor suggested SFU for my PhD studies, I looked at the SFU Faculty of Education website and also inquired about the university from my other professors in Sri Lanka. I found the PhD program in Mathematics Education here at SFU has both a strong academic and research-based focus. As I desired, the objective of the program is to help educators develop an understanding in both mathematics as well as in teaching and learning. Also it focuses on developing research and professional practice in the field.
Who is a faculty member you have enjoyed working with and why?
So far I have had a fantastic experience with the entire faculty I’ve worked with in the Mathematics Education program. I had the great opportunity of learning from all the members in the faculty—Dr. Sen Campbell, Dr. Nathalie Sinclair, Dr. Peter Liljedahl and Dr. David Pimm—who have been great inspiration to my studies. My supervisor, Dr. Rina Zazkis in particular, has been remarkable in advising and guiding me through the program over the past two years. She has a unique perspective on mathematics education and I admire her focus on mathematical content knowledge of pre-service teachers. She not only works closely with me in my research area, guiding me every step of the way, but she also makes sure that I feel as if SFU is my home away from home. She is a great mentor and has been very understanding and supportive. I am lucky to be surrounded by such a caring and supportive faculty.
What inspires you to learn and continue your education?
My passion towards the field of mathematics education and the urge to go back to my country and serve as a teacher and a qualified teacher educator keeps me going.
What would you say to prospective students who are considering graduate school in the Faculty of Education?
The field of education has a very unique color and taste to it. In my experience, the Faculty of Education at SFU is a great place to grow in this field and explore what it has to offer.