"I love teaching. I love the human relationships involved in teaching. They are invaluable. They are priceless. The interactions I have with my students [are], I would say, almost everything of what keeps me going, what keeps the engine running."
Pinball machines. Roulette wheels. Slot machines. If you were convinced that we were describing a new entertainment complex due to spring up in Singapore soon, you would’ve been wrong. These are just some of the innovative classroom tools that Rosie Ching, Senior Lecturer of Statistics at SMU, uses to teach fundamental statistical concepts to first-year students. “Instinctively, I knew that just pure numbers on paper wasn’t going to cut it, so I decided to bring in real miniature toys that can actually show statistics in action,” explains Rosie. Her novel use of roulette wheels, for example, are as engaging for students as they are instructive. “This was even before the advent of IRs (integrated resorts) in Singapore… we were already spinning those roulette wheels, and analysing the chances and probabilities and expected values and standard deviations. Then when the IRs came, of course, everything fell into place.” Rosie’s use of games proved to be so popular that she decided to take it a step further, spending 18 months developing an online game centred on the Customer Service Index (CSI). The game covers five to six weeks of the term’s work, and each stage has a specific hypothesis test attached to it. “The students love it. It brings them through the intricacies of every single hypothesis test,” Rosie says of the fruit of her labour, which is in the process of being adapted for the iPad. Beyond games, Rosie firmly believes in updating her course materials regularly to maintain her students’ interest in the subject. “[I introduce] a new theme every term… it’s always brand new and fresh,” says Rosie, whose students recall fondly the term where she adopted a Titanic theme in remembrance of the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the ship. “It turned out to be one of the most haunting, sobering [and] memorable stats projects I’ve ever helmed,” Rosie recounts. “And I think it held the same for students too… you cannot escape the touching stories, the human-ness, the immeasurable loss when she sank… that was quite unforgettable.” Rosie’s many teaching excellence awards can be attributed to the fact that she encourages full participation in every class. “In class, [there’s] always a multi-way communication going. It’s not just me droning on time and time again,” Rosie asserts. Her classes are highly interactive because she arrives at solutions to problems in real-time with her students’ input. “It’s interactive in that sense, not just because I’m writing, but because the students—at the same time—are telling me what to write… If there are any errors along the way, well, be assured that there will be students correcting their peers.” But it is perhaps Rosie’s unwavering dedication to her students that they treasure her most for. She makes it a point to get to know all of her students by name—all 180 of them per term—and cherishes every moment that she gets to spend with them.