Changing the Culture 2004

Changing the Culture 2004:
Mathematics Curriculum: Could Less be More?

April 23, 2004
SFU at Harbour Centre
515 Hastings Street, Vancouver

The 7th 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 improving teaching of mathematics at all levels.

The focus of this year's conference will be school mathematics curriculum, and students' preparation for university courses, including Calculus and Mathematics for Elementary School Teachers.

The problem of overloaded and over engineered curriculum was one of the key issues identified at the Canadian Forum on School Mathematics, held May 16 - 18th, 2003, in Montreal (click here for more details). This topic was further discussed at the Education Session of the CMS Winter 2003 meeting in Vancouver (for the discussion paper, click here). At this conference, we will try to look at what we all can do to improve the situation.

Conference Programme

8:30 Registration

9:00-10:00 Keynote Lecture: Lessons from the Ontario Curriculum
Stewart Craven, District-wide Coordinator of Mathematics and Numeracy, Toronto District School Board
Abstract: The State of Mathematics Education on Ontario - Where We Came From and Where We Are in April, 2004
The teaching and learning of mathematics in Ontario has been in a constant state of flux over the last 50 years. However, the most comprehensive change in Ontario elementary and secondary curricula began implementation in 1997.
I will address the nature of the curriculum change in terms of content, pedagogy, and assessment and also the steps taken to implement these curricula across Ontario. I will also provide some insight into how students have done under the new curriculum and how post secondary institutes view these new graduates.
Mathematics curricula from Kindergarten to grade 12 are already under review by the provincial government and the changes will be implemented in the next two years. I will point out what aspects of the new curriculum are drawing the greatest attention.
Finally, I will address a few of the key issues about mathematics education in Ontario that continue to be controversial.
Room 1900.

10:00-10:30 Process or Product: Exactly What Is It We Want From Our Students
Peter Liljedahl, Faculty of Education, SFU
Room 1900.

10:30-11:00 Coffee break

11:00 -12:30 Workshop Part I

12:30-13:30 Lunch

13:30-15:00 Panel Discussion: Reflections on Schools Mathematics Curriculum
Katharine Borgen, Vancouver School Board, UBC
Bernice Kastner, Towson University, Maryland
Petra Menz, Department of Mathematics, SFU
Katie Pirquet, Edward Milne Community School
Room 1900.

15:00-16:00 Workshop Part II

16:00-16:30 Coffee break

16:30-17:30 Public Lecture: A Community of Learners: Preparing Students for University and for Life
Elaine Simmt, Faculty of Education, University of Alberta
Abstract: How does the high activity, hands on mathematics that is encouraged by our `reform curricula' (e.g. Western Canada Protocol & NCTM Standards) open up possibilities for students to become proficient in mathematics? I wonder if such curricula are appropriate for university bound students as well as those who will end their formal mathematics education at the conclusion of high school? More specifically, in the teaching of such reform curricula how do we get students to move from counting, measuring and pattern noticing to engaging in generalization, verification, explanation and symbolization.
In this talk, I will explore these questions using illustrations from a school-based teaching experiment and theoretical arguments from the study of complex learning systems. I will suggest that without a community of learners it is difficult to teach in the ways promoted by the reform curricula and achieve the level of mathematical proficiency that is appropriate for students moving on to university mathematics or useful to students who end their studies of mathematics upon completion of high school.
This talk is based on two research studies: the first, conducted by Brent Davis and myself (Davis and Simmt, 2003) where we study the conditions within classrooms that occasion the emergence of complex learning systems and a second study where I worked in a 7th grade mathematics class over the course of a school year.
Room 1900.


This year workshops are designed as two part working groups, focusing on student preparation for important stages in their education. The participants are expected to choose a group which reflects their interests best, and work with that group throughout the conference. Each group will be working on a set of recommendations, which will be posted on this website after the conference.
1. Students preparation for Calculus, leaders: Justin Gray, SFU and Veselin Jungic, SFU.
2. Students preparation for Mathematics for Elementary School Teachers, Susan Oesterle, Douglas College and Chris Stewart, Douglas College.
3. Students preparation for high school, Murray Martin, Port Moody Secondary School, and Natasa Sirotic, Collingwood School.

Previous Changing the Culture Conferences


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