Changing the Culture - 2015


Date: Friday, May 8th, 2015

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 Theater)


9:00 Plenary Talk: Building Thinking Classrooms, Peter Liljedahl, Faculty of Education, SFU (Room 1900 - Fletcher Challenge Theater)

We know that problem solving is an effective and important way for students to learn to think mathematically and to acquire a deeper knowledge and understanding of the mathematics they are learning. This is why it is so important that we find way to enable teachers to introduce problem solving into their classrooms. But there is much more to this than identifying problems or teaching heuristics to solve them. Even an infusion of problem solving into mandated curriculum does not necessarily allow the goals of problem solving to be realized. The reason for this is that the implementation of problem solving in a classroom full of students that are not used to it by a teacher who is not experienced with it is not a fertile setting for success. The early challenges that the teacher faces may be enough to cause her to abandon her efforts. What such a teacher needs are a set of tools to help her have early success in her endeavour – to allow her to see the benefits of problem solving first hand and to build up the fortitude and commitment to make it a regular part of her teaching. In this presentation I look at a series of such tools, specifically designed to build a conducive problem solving environment in the classroom, and present the results of research that investigates their effectiveness in helping teachers to kick-start the use of problem solving in the classroom. Results indicate that a problem solving environment and culture can be quickly established even in very traditional classrooms.


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


10:30 Workshops A, B and C

Workshop A 2-stage or not 2-stage: Experiences with Group Exams in Math at UBC, Kseniya Garaschuk and Sandra Merchant, UBC, (Room 1900 - Fletcher Challenge Theater)

In a two-stage assessment, students first complete and turn in the questions individually and then, working in small groups, answer the same questions again. This technique was first introduced in the UBC Faculty of Science in 2009 and is now being used in at least 20 science courses.

In this session, we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of two-stage assessments and describe some past experiences with this method at UBC and in the math department in particular. We will also consider different formats and options for implementing two-stage reviews or exams in your courses.

Workshop B Promoting Numeracy Skills in the Classroom, Minnie Liu, Gladstone Secondary/SFU (Room 1505)

In the recent past, numeracy – or mathematical literacy as it is often called – has become more and more prominent, showing up in curriculum documents and special government initiatives around the world and in B.C. But how can we foster (and hopefully sustain) students’ numeracy skills in our classrooms? In this workshop, we will look at problems that may be used to promote students’ numeracy skills, and discuss the limitations and affordances of using them in our teaching.

Workshop C Create a Perfect Rhombus: an Introduction to Classic Geometric Constructions, Susan Milner, UFV (Room 1525)

This is a hands-on workshop for anyone who would like to experience geometry, rather than just look at it. We'll explore basic construction techniques that can be easily taught to students from the intermediate grades through to undergraduate. My students and I have found that learning to use a compass and straight-edge has changed the way we think about geometrical relationships. See if it makes a difference for you - come release your inner Euclid!

While we'll have some supplies on hand, participants should if possible bring their own compasses, rulers and sharp pencils.


12:00 PIMS Award Ceremony


12:30 Lunch (Room 1400 - Segal Centre)


13:30 Plenary Talk: Inspiring teaching by linking math to industry Chris Budd, University of Bath, UK (Room 1900 - Fletcher Challenge Theater)

Mathematics at both school and university undergraduate level is often taught as a very abstract subject with no obvious connection to reality. Applied mathematics courses are often focused on mechanics, which tends to be regarded as a rather technical subject by students. As a result, students often end up with a rather one sided view of mathematics, seeing it as a subject which is either completely useless, or as one in which applied maths is either poor maths, old fashioned maths, or not even real maths at all. As a consequence, when looking for careers students often think that the only possible jobs for mathematicians lie in teaching or in the financial sector. Sadly a similar view is held by many maths teacher/lecturers as well.

In fact nothing could be further from the truth! The reality is that mathematics lies at the heart of much of modern science and technology. Its applications are growing fast. Many of the real breakthroughs are now being made by applying what has until recently been considered pure maths to real world problems. And perhaps best of all for students, a training in mathematics makes you extremely employable. Mathematicians are in great demand in industry, both for their subject knowledge and also for their problem solving skills.

From the perspective of teaching, using examples of industrial applications of mathematics has many advantages. Seeing how mathematics is used ‘in the real world’ can be extremely motivating for students who can sometimes be put off by an overly abstract approach to maths teaching. Industrial problems also have no respect for the borderlines between modules, and thus require students to think across boundaries, often using a variety of techniques from maths, stats and computing. Finally, industrial problems far from being easy applications of maths are usually very challenging and make students think out of the box to solve them. So, all in all, three very good reasons to put industrial examples into your teaching. There is also the advantage that they help in developing other skills such as team work, presentation skills, research skills, interdisciplinary working, modelling, working with unstructured problems and the skill of rapid computing.

In this talk I will describe some successful ways in which industrial case studies have been used in both university and school teaching, and will also tell you about the new 'Core maths' course for High School students being developed in tbe UK. In the talk I will give you some case studies of real world applications of maths (some of which I was directly involved with) and will encourage you to try you hand at solving them.


14:30 Panel Discussion To Flip, or Not to Flip? (Room 1900 - Fletcher Challenge Theater)

Dragos Hrimiuc, University of Alberta
Nora Franzowa, Langara College
Mark MacLean, University of British Columbia
Petra Menz, SFU
Heather Mosher, Southridge School


16:00 Coffee Break (Room 1400 - Segal Centre)


16:30 Plenary Talk: Math at heart, Frédéric Gourdeau, Université Laval (Room 1900 - Fletcher Challenge Theater)

We walk into the classroom with a vision of what we teach and of our role in education, both grounded in our personal beliefs and in a culture which is personal and collective. The way we look at mathematics, what we take it to be, is at the heart of teaching. The way we see our role in the vast educational enterprise that we are part of, is crucial.

As a mathematician working in teacher preparation, I consider mathematical activities enabling students to take part in the creative aspects of mathematics as essential. Experimenting, guessing, conjecturing, thinking creatively, using our imagination, are at the heart of mathematics. There needs to be a place for erroneous assumptions, trial and errors, exemplification, model building, numerical attempts and approximations: problem solving, in a broad meaning, is a crucial component of mathematics.

In this talk, I will discuss in more details why these aspects are so important to me, linking it to the multiple roles that mathematics can play in education. Various mathematical activities and projects will illustrate concretely what this can mean. A brief incursion into the realm of neuroscience, more precisely on brain plasticity in relation to education, will also be part of the picture.


17:30 Concluding Remarks