Changing the Culture 2003

Changing the Culture 2003:
Do We Need to Teach Algebra?

May 2, 2003
SFU at Harbour Centre
515 Hastings Street, Vancouver

The 6th Annual Changing the Culture Conference, organized and sponsored by the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences, will again bring 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 don't believe they could. This year's conference will focus on transitions from secondary to post-secondary mathematics classrooms. What are the issues?

People teaching first year courses at universities and colleges feel that students are not prepared for the experience. Parents are looking for tutors for their children, concerned about their chances at passing UBC (SFU, UVic, ...) calculus course. Does the new curriculum prepare students for the university/college experience? Or, is it that the high school curricula have been changing faster than the university calculus courses, and the students arrive not knowing enough about algebra to satisfy university expectations? Are these expectations realistic?

Do we need to teach Algebra? What Algebra? For Whom?

These are just some of the questions this year's Changing the Culture conference will attempt to answer.

Conference Programme

Click on lecture title for streamed video filed. For more information, including technical requirements, please click here.

8:30 Registration

9:00 Opening Remarks TBA

9:15-10:15 Keynote Lecture The Language of Mathematics
Bernice Kastner, Towson University, Maryland and the Rochester Institute of Technology
Abstract: Technology has had a great impact on high school mathematics curricula, providing tools to help students build intuition through visualization among other benefits. Have such gains been accompanied by a loss in the ability to "speak the language of mathematics" - algebra?

10:15-10:45 Coffee break

10:45-12:00 Workshops and Discussions

12:00-13:00 Lunch

13:00-14:30 Panel Discussion:
Lorraine Baron, Mount Boucherie Secondary School, Kelowna
Wayne Matthews, Camosun College, Victoria
Kanwal Neel, Steveston Secondary, Richmond
Brian Wetton, UBC

14:30-15:45 Workshops and Discussions

15:45-16:00 Coffee break

16:00-17:00 Public Lecture Hollywood Perceptions of Mathematics: Cultural Truth or Mathematical Fiction?
Rina Zazkis and Peter Liljedahl, Faculty of Education, SFU,
Abstract: We live in a society that has infinite tolerance for innumeracy. It is accepted (and even expected) that our children are going to struggle with mathematics. It has become a cultural norm. Hollywood doesn't help. Its portrayal of mathematics and mathematical activity serves only to malign public perception. But is it creating the image or merely representing it? In this plenary we will use movie excerpts to examine the question of what mathematics do people really know (or don't know).


1. Helping Students Learn Calculus using Problem Solving Workshops,
Joanne Nakonechny, Roger Donaldson, UBC
2. Can Algebra be made Lively?
Malgorzata Dubiel, SFU, Klaus Hoechsmann, UBC
3. Roots and Routes to Algebra
Peter Liljedahl, SFU

Previous Changing the Culture Conferences


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