Changing the Culture 2007: Assessing What We Do

  • Date: 04/20/2007

Tom Archibald, Department of Mathematics, SFU
Egan Chernoff, SFU
Malgorzata Dubiel, SFU
Susan Milner, UCFV
Elaine Simmt, Faculty of Education
Freddie Irani, Eric Hamber Secondary
Dave Lidstone, Langara
Heather Mosher, Southridge School
Laura Scull, UBC
Elaine Simmt, Faculty of Education, University of Alberta


Simon Fraser University


8:30 Registration


9:15 Opening Remarks
( Room 1900, Fletcher Challenge Theatre )


9:30 History of Changing the Culture: from the French Revolution to the 21st Century
Tom Archibald, Department of Mathematics, SFU
( Room 1900, Fletcher Challenge Theatre )
Abstract: Educators over the years have attempted to provide a jump-start to mathematics education by introducing initiatives to induce "cultural change". In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, some of these initiatives were connected with the mathematical traning of an elite corps of individuals. For example, the mathematical curriculum of the Ecole polytechnique in Paris sought to give high-level training in the mathematical sciences in order to develop the useful mathematics needed for founding a new society. This put pressure on secondary educators to prepare students for the competitive entrance examinations, with long-term results that echo today. On the other hand, in Germany and Britain in the first decades of the nineteenth century, mathematical education at the senior high school and university level was seen as having a fundamental role in identifying those whose capacity for good moral judgements would make them reliable leaders in an aristocratic state. The preparation for the famed Mathematical Tripos examinations at Cambridge produced far more government administrators and clerics than research scientists. In all of these cases, a broad culture of valuing mathematical learning developed, though the reasons for which this learning was valued varied widely.
In this paper, I shall consider the relation of these efforts to more recent curriculum reform efforts, such as the SMSG New Math of the 1960s and more recent NCTM reforms. Recent efforts have aimed at much larger populations. The general conclusions of the talk are two: there is no magic bullet; and there is no reason to expect that the successes of efforts aimed at creating a corps of highly trained elite practitioners should work at the same level in a much larger population.


10:30 Coffee Break
( Room 1400, Segal Centre )


11:00 Workshops
Workshop 1, Egan Chernoff, SFU: Chances are... you'll learn something new about probability.
( Room 1430/1440 )
Abstract: On Friday March 16, 2007 history was made. For the first time ever there was a three-way tie (for first place) on Jeopardy! People involved with the show decided to contact Dr. David Levine about the odds, which he claimed were 1 in 25 million. Interestingly, controversy over the calculation has subsequently swept the Internet. What is all the fuss about?
In this workshop we will critically assess what we know about probability. In order to do so, participants will solve a variety of "classical" probability problems (i.e., be prepared to do some mathematics). I contend, with 83% certainty, that by the end of this workshop, we will all have a better understanding of the Jeopardy ruckus. Why? Because answering the classical problems presented will provide a venue for discussion of major: mathematical, philosophical, psychological and educational issues inherent to probability. The discussion will culminate on the following proposition: Our best chances for changing the culture requires assessing, and subsequently changing, what we do with probability.
Workshop 2, Malgorzata Dubiel, SFU, Susan Milner, UCFV: Math Elementary Teachers Need to Know.
( Room 1315 )
Abstract: Most BC colleges and universities offer a course titled "Mathematics for Elementary Teachers". The courses vary in content, and in expectations of what students should know prior to enrolling in such course. But how an ideal course for elementary school teachers should look like? Is there a specific math content that is essential for students to learn? Or is it more important to focus such course on what is the nature of mathematical thinking, mathematical understanding? What are we doing and can we do it better?
Workshop 3, Sue Haberger, SFU/Coquitlam College, Petra Menz, SFU, Jamie Mulholland, SFU: Rethinking Precalculus Mathematics.
( Room 1900, Fletcher Challenge Theatre )
Abstract: Do our Precalculus courses (at universities, colleges and high schools) prepare students for Calculus? What are concepts and skills that are essential for students' understanding of Calculus, and how can we test whether students do have them? How can we deal with students' lack of these skills in our Calculus courses? How can we design better Precalculus courses?


13:00 Lunch
( Room 1400, Segal Centre )


14:00 Panel discussion
Motivating Students
Panel Members: Freddie Irani, Eric Hamber Secondary
Dave Lidstone, Langara
Heather Mosher, Southridge School
Laura Scull, UBC
( Room 1900, Fletcher Challenge Theatre )


15:30 Coffee Break


16:00 Math, I love it! It's better than sex
Elaine Simmt, Faculty of Education, University of Alberta
( Room 1900, Fletcher Challenge Theatre )
Abstract: A passion for mathematics is seen in the best mathematics teachers. But what are some of the other qualities of teachers whose students perform well in mathematics? In this presentation Dr. Simmt will share stories from her research study of teachers whose students perform well on the Grade 9 achievement test in Alberta. In those teachers' classrooms she found vast differences at the same time as incredible commonalities. Join us to learn more about the qualities she observed in these teachers' classroom.


17:00 Closing Remarks
(Room 1900, Fletcher Challenge Theatre)
The conference is free but space is limited! The registration deadline is Monday, April 16th, 2007.


For more information, contact conference organizer, Malgorzata Dubiel, dubiel at

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