Changing the culture 2009

Changing the Culture 2009:
Integrating Mathematics

April 30, 2009
SFU Vancouver
515 W. Hastings Street, Vancouver


This year's Changing the Culture will be a satellite conference of The Canadian Mathematics Education Forum (CMEF). Please check back for more information, or contact the conference organizer, Malgorzata Dubiel (dubiel at


The conference is free, but space is limited! The registration deadline is Friday, April 24, 2009.

Online registration is now closed. 


Conference Programme

8:00 Registration

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

9:00 Engaging Students through a Cross-Disciplinary Approach, Richard Brewster, TRU
(Room 1900, Fletcher Challenge Theatre)
Abstract: It is no secret that many students take mathematics as a requirement their program of study. These requirements are often justified through claims of future utility of the mathematics. At its worst this arrangement is an uneasy alliance between the mathematicians, who see applications as secondary to their job of teaching mathematics, and the students (or even the faculty in other program areas), who see the mathematics as contrived with no real usefulness. Even if there is a commitment to include applications in the mathematics curriculum, integrating the mathematics into their other courses is often a struggle for the students. In the experience of the speaker, applications can be used to Change The Culture in the classroom. In this talk we will examine some examples from the speaker's own courses where there has been occasional success in moving students from captive to captivated. Particular examples will come from Biology and from Computing Science.

10:00 Coffee Break
(Room 1400, Segal Centre)

10:30 Workshops AB, Part I

12:00 PIMS Award Ceremony: Presentation of the 2009 PIMS Education Prize
(Room 1900, Fletcher Challenge Theatre)

12:30 Lunch
(Room 1400, Segal Centre)

13:30 Workshops AB, Part II

14:30 Panel Discussion: Integrating Mathematics and the Sciences
(Room 1900, Fletcher Challenge Theatre)
* Gerda de Vries, University of Alberta
* Trina Isakson, SFU
* Mark MacLean, UBC

16:00 Coffee Break

16:30 Reconsidering Basic Mathematical Assumptions in Teacher Education, Rina Zazkis, SFU
(Room 1900, Fletcher Challenge Theatre)
Abstract: My focus is on examples that increase teachers' mathematical understanding and their pedagogical sensitivity. I suggest that examples that persuade teachers to reconsider 'basic assumptions' used in teaching and learning of mathematics, or to become explicitly aware of these assumptions, serve as a means toward this end. By 'basic assumptions' I refer to assumptions related to mathematical content, rather than those related to the nature of learners or learning processes. That is, 'basic assumptions' are parts of information used in mathematical activity, but not mentioned explicitly in statements or tasks. I distinguish between different kinds of assumptions: mathematical conventions, shared understandings, and assumptions that present unintended constraints to problem solving. I exemplify and discuss each of these kinds in relation to the goals of teacher education.


Workshop A: Identifying and Supporting Ill-prepared Students in Our Classrooms
Justin Gray, SFU
Vicki Vidas, Britannia Secondary
Rahael Jalan, PIMS
Abstract: Many instructors have students in their classes who meet the course prerequisites but, for one reason or another, are ill- prepared for their studies. How can we identify these students and what can we do to help them? In this workshop, we will explore ways to identify such students early in the course, motivate them to seek help, and develop programs to support remediation. We will share experiences from two remedial programs in this workshop:
(1) The Aboriginal Gifts Project at Britannia Secondary, designed to provide the weaker incoming students with the strong foundation and confidence necessary to meet the challenges of Principles of Math 10, 11 and 12; and (2) The Calculus Support Program at SFU, created to identify and support students who are ill-prepared for first-year calculus.

Workshop B: Exponentiation is Multivalued - Let's Embrace it!
Leader: Peter Danenhower, Langara
Abstract: We have all learned that an important property of a function is that for each input there is a unique output. Nevertheless, "multi-functions" (i.e. operations that have several answers for each input) have always been important in higher mathematics and are increasingly important in applications. For example, a commuter may have several routes to work or a roll of a die has 6 outcomes. In this workshop we will explore multivalued answers in the context of a debate in the math ed literature, about exponents of negative bases, with a view to simplifying the usual rules and easing instruction.