New adviser helps math club become better organized and more well known

May 28, 2009 — by Albert Gu and Anna Shen

P.J. Yim makes a point during geometry class

Some students may not realize a math club exists on campus. Fortunately for all the mathlovers out there, math teacher PJ Yim is attempting to change that.

Although a newcomer to the school this year, Yim has taken on the responsibility of being the math club’s adviser. Rather than doing the bare minimum of letting students use his room, Yim does his best to play a significant role as a mentor, leading to the math club’s success in distinguishing itself as containing some of the best mathematicians in the country.

“At first, I tried teaching [the club] math tricks and stuff, but I think they got the impression that it was becoming another class, so later I just became a support role and an advising, mentoring role,” said Yim. “I’m trying to be the kind of math club adviser I wish I had.”

In the past, the math club simply competed in math competitions and did not do much more than that. Meetings were usually sporadic, and few people showed up. In an attempt to change this, Yim spent several months pushing the club to develop better communication and a more organized structure.

“When I first showed up [at SHS], there were several kids that were really, really, really bright, but they were a collection of individuals,” said Yim. “They were socially inept and couldn’t get along really well. My main emphasis is team—never individual goals, but the team aspect.”

Yim has instituted some major changes, such as assigning new officer positions, organizing meetings every Friday after school and developing new fundraisers, such as selling Krispy Kreme donuts by the dozen.

“[Yim] visually transformed the math club,” said sophomore David Wang, an active participant of the math club. “[The club] has become a lot more organized and consistent, and he enticed more people to become interested in math.”

Yim also wants to guide the members of the math club to break free of the stereotypes that have dogged them, such as “math geek” and “nerd.”

“I would like to kill that stereotype,” said Yim. “I think very soon people will start seeing that they’re not just math geniuses who can’t look people in the eye. They could be viewed as the leaders of Saratoga High School and represent our school.”

Yim’s desire to help the math program at SHS stems from his previous job at Leland High School, where he taught AP Calculus BC for seven years and also headed the math club. From Leland, Yim brought not only his teaching experience to Saratoga, but also a genuine love and enthusiasm for mathematics. In the Algebra II Honors and Geometry classes that he teaches at SHS, Yim tries to get his students excited about learning.

“I need to motivate my students [and let] them know that there’s more to it than just what you see on the textbook,” said Yim. “My approach is the same thing whether I teach the lowest level class or highest level.”

In the future, Yim wants to see club members as people who are much more than calculus whizzes or geometry geniuses. Instead, he hopes that the math club will inspire students to become strong leaders as well.

“In high school, [I] never had the opportunity to organize and stuff, and that’s something that I personally liked,” said Yim. “I get a lot of joy [out] of looking at [the members] being the leaders that [they] are.”