Changing The Culture 2014


This Changing the Culture Conference was dedicated to our esteemed friend and colleague Katharine Louise Borgen (1946 - 2014)



The annual Changing the Culture Conference, organized and sponsored by the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences, brings together mathematicians, mathematics educators and school teachers from all levels to work together towards narrowing the gap between mathematicians and teachers of mathematics, and between those who do and enjoy mathematics and those who think they don't.


Changing the Culture



Changing the Culture 2014: Fostering Curiosity


Date: Friday, May 16th, 2014

Location: SFU-Vancouver at Harbour Centre, 515 W. Hastings Street, Vancouver, Canada




Conference Program


8:00 Registration

8:45 Opening Remarks, Room 1900, Fletcher Challenge Theatre


9:00 Plenary Talk, Questions not Answers, Richard Hoshino, Quest University, Room 1900 Fletcher Challenge Theater

Why do so many children lose their natural curiosity when they grow into adulthood? As one author argues, our modern-day education system is largely to blame, where students are fed facts and formulas, and are not given the space to take risks, make mistakes, and explore the questions that are pertinent to their lives.

Since February 2013, I have taught math at Quest University Canada, a small liberal arts university in Squamish, B.C. In this presentation, I'll share the radical approach of Quest's math curriculum, which starts with the students' questions, rather than the professor's answers.

I'll discuss how this unorthodox pedagogy has led to math-fearing students inspiring social action (e.g. a new roommate-matching algorithm), empowering students to realize that mathematics can help them understand the world, their world, in a more meaningful way.


10:00 Coffee Break, Room 1400, Segal Center


10:30 Workshops A, B and C

Workshop A: Mathematical Habits of Mind, Susan Oesterle, Douglas College, Room 1315

The new draft BC Math Curriculum emphasises a focus on developing "mathematical habits of mind". What are they? What does this mean for what we do in our classrooms? What can we do to support our students and each other? After a short intro to the notion of "mathematical habits of mind", we'll use hands-on activities to explore this idea and its implications for teaching mathematics.


Workshop B: Calculus Diagnostic Test: What Are We Learning? Justin Gray, Natalia Kouzniak, Cameron Morland, SFU, Room 1900

SFU has been giving a Calculus Diagnostic Test to all Calculus students during the first week of classes for the past seven years, and we have accumulated impressive statistics about students performance on the test, and in their Calculus courses. What did we learn, and how is this knowledge influencing our courses? What do we still need to learn?


Workshop C: Discussion on Draft Mathematics Curriculum, Ron Coleborn, Brenda Davison, Natasa Sirotic, Room 1510

This workshop is intended as an informal discussion of the draft of the new math curriculum that has been posted on the Ministry's website for the past several months. If you are interested in participating in this discussion, please read the draft at:


12:00 PIMS Award Ceremony Presenting 2014 PIMS Education Prize to Susan Milner, UFV, 1900, Fletcher Challenge Theatre


12:30 Lunch, Room 1400, Segal Centre


13:30 Viewing the Unviewable, Steven Wittens, - Hackery, Math and Design, 1900, Fletcher Challenge Theatre

The device in front of you can do hundreds of millions of computations per second. Assuming you're on a meek smartphone or tablet. An Xbox' graphics chip makes supercomputers of the past few decades look quaint, processing a billion data points per second. Should we just be using this to draw episodes of Call of Duty over and over again?

What if we constructed live, intricate, correct models of math instead? We could send them across the world with one click. And maybe this already works today, if you know where to look.

14:30 Panel DiscussionMotivating students,Rick Brewster, TRU; Oana Chiru, Moscrop Secondary; Peter Liljedahl, SFU; Susan Milner, UFV, 1900, Fletcher Challenge Theatre


16:00 Coffee Break


16:30 Plenary Talk, What Makes a Good Teaching Problem?, John McLoughlin, University of New Brunswick, 1900, Fletcher Challenge Theatre

Teaching problems in my vocabulary refer to problems that are pedagogically effective. These problems may illustrate the value of a particular approach to problem solving. It may be the elegance of a solution or hidden structural similarities to familiar problems or counterintuitive results or even a surprising "unsolvability" characteristic or...

Perhaps most surprising is that one rarely recognizes a good teaching problem upon first sight. Rather an experience whether as a solver, teacher, or bystander strikes a chord that awakens curiousity. The desire to revisit a problem, share insights with others, or investigate related ideas may arise from various sources: someone’s (method of) solution; patterns leading to rich explorations/generalizations; an aspect of brilliance; transferability as with the numerical problem that lends itself to geometry, or vice-versa, to name a few. The common element is that something about a problem is perceived to be extraordinary, and hence, memorable.

The presentation will offer teaching problems that can be shared in secondary and undergraduate mathematics classes, along with insights into what gives them this quality. My teaching problems may not be yours. Therefore, aspects of my biography and philosophy as both a teacher and solver of mathematical problems will figure into this talk.

17:30 Concluding Remarks