May 30, 2006
O. Pauline Chow admits she never trained to be a stand up comedian, but the HACC professor's brand of mathematics humor has gone a long way toward student success in her classroom. Her unique teaching style is earning her growing recognition among her peers.

Chow, who has taught at HACC for the last 21 years, was the kickoff speaker during the opening of the 2006 Pacific Northwest Two-Year College Mathematics Conference last month in Stevenson, Washington. Her message to about 300 participants was how using humor in the math classroom can help improve retention and success rates for students.

An avid fan of late-night television host David Letterman, Chow has built a solid repertoire of "Chow's Top Ten Lists" that pokes innocent fun at her students but keeps them waiting in line to register for her classes.

"Telling jokes is my hook to get students into my class," said Chow, adding that humor is only one of her teaching strategies. "We need to get the message across that we do have different learning styles in the classroom, and we [as teachers] need to do a better job."

Chow first joined HACC's faculty in 1984 after teaching at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia for four years. The first time she taught pre-algebra, she fled the classroom in frustration because she did not know how to teach her students to subtract integers.

"Now teaching mathematics is my passion and the classroom is my stage," Chow admitted. "By using humor in my classroom, I encourage students to laugh and have fun while they are learning math."

Chow received her bachelor's degree in pure mathematics in 1973 and her master's degree in applied mathematics and statistics in 1974. She currently teaches everything from intermediate algebra to differential equations.

Active in various math organizations, she is a board member of the Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of Mathematics, an elected board member of the Pennsylvania Association of Developmental Education and served as past president of the Pennsylvania State Mathematics Association of Two-Year Colleges. She also regularly presents at local, state and national conferences. Chow is a resident of Palmyra.

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