# A Wonderful Mentorship Experience with a Chinese High School Student

By Qingxi Meng (qingxi@stanford.edu)

I am very lucky to have a great opportunity to mentor a wonderful Chinese high school senior, Yuting. I got connected to Yuting through my mother’s friend. Yuting and I met regularly on Sunday 8pm PT (12pm Beijing time). Yuting has taken many high school math and physics classes, but she only knows a little bit about probability and nothing about calculus. Therefore, my goal is to help her have a high-level understanding in information theory. Both Yuting and I are very interested in science fictions and I used many examples in science fictions for her to understand information theory.

Since Yuting knew nothing about information theory before, I was very nervous in the first session. Before our first meeting, I made a short video and gave a brief introduction of information theory as a story.  During our first session, I showed Yuting one real-life application of information theory: data compression. I showed her that many of the large files we used in daily life (e.g. movies) are stored in a compressed way. In the first session, I also introduced the basic concepts of probability in a very general way. Originally, I prepared a slide of 20 pages to introduce the mathematical backgrounds for information theory. However, I found that Yuting got lost very quickly. Thus, that part of the first session did not go as smoothly as I expected. In the last thirty minutes of the first session, we have a very interesting discussion about what will happen if there is no compression in our world. We also quickly discussed about Shannon. Surprisingly, Yuting heard of Shannon in her history class. It turned out that the contribution of Shannon was mentioned very briefly in the modern technology section of Chinese history book. Also, as a homework, I asked Yuting to estimate the sizes of all compressed files she had in her computer.

After the first session, I did not use slides to introduce mathematical ideas that much because I realized that Yuting was very easy to get lost in that manner. Instead, I usually played an interesting video related to the topic I wanted to cover. Then, I would only give a brief introduction and then Yuting and I had an interesting conversation over it. After each session, I encouraged Yuting to talk to her parents and cousins about what she learned in our session. Since her relatives had nearly no background at all in the science or technology, she also sometimes drew a picture or told a story.