Changing The Culture 2018: Thinking Outside the Box


The annual Changing the Culture Conference, organized and sponsored by the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences, brings 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 think they don't.


Changing the Culture



Date: Friday, May 18, 2018

Location: SFU-Vancouver at Harbour Centre, 515 W. Hastings Street, Vancouver, Canada


As in past years, registration for this event is free, but you will be asked to complete this RSVP form to allow us to plan the event. Please register by Tuesday May 15th.



Conference Program


8:00 Registration, (1301 Harbour Centre Concourse)

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

09:00 Plenary Talk: The evolution of UVic’s Logic and Foundations course  Gary McGillivray, UVic (Room 1900 - Fletcher Challenge Theatre)
I will describe the transformation of UVic Math 122, Logic and Foundations, from a hated course with a 34% failure rate to a popular course with a low failure rate that is now a key component in all of our programs. To make the course successful it was necessary to change all aspects of the culture surrounding it. We’ll discuss the changes that were made, the highs and the lows, the challenges and the pitfalls, and ongoing efforts to prevent the course from becoming stale.

The developmental goals of the Math 122 course involve thinking, analyzing, problem solving and communication: skills that are developed there are useful in almost any discipline. Math 122 became a key part of our programs after students commented how it helped the bridge from the calculus sequence to more typical math classes like abstract algebra, and faculty teaching those classes noticed a difference in the achievement of students with it and without it.

For most students, Math 122 is completely different from any mathematics course they have ever taken. It gives students a first taste of what mathematics is, and what mathematicians do in a much better way than calculus does. The instructors try to teach the course from that perspective, and also to show that mathematics can be an enjoyable, engaging, social activity. That has helped make the course an enjoyable experience for almost everyone. Math 122 is now a great recruiting tool for our programs. Many students come to university liking math, and intending to study a mathematical discipline. This course is often the one that leads them to choose a math program (maybe combined with a different discipline).

10:00 Coffee Break, (1301 Harbour Centre Concourse)

10:30 Workshops A, B and C

Workshop A Krypto's Lock Box Hans Bauk (Room 1520)
For the past two years we have orchestrated an event at my school called Krypto’s Lock Box: Part scavenger hunt, part escape room, and part math contest. The goal for the students was to open a locked box full of prizes, and to do so required solving a series of math problems, riddles, and puzzles. It has been an overwhelming success in terms of student involvement and school spirit. In this workshop I’ll show what we did and how we did it, and we will explore some of the problems that the students had to solve along the way.

Workshop B Numeracy Tasks: Opening Pandora’s Box Phil Stringer, Crofton House School (Room 1530)
Numeracy preparation for students to "activate their thinking for the five types of numeracy processes they will be prompted to use: Interpret, Apply, Solve, Analyze and Communicate" (BC Ministry of Education). Workshop will give ideas and resources for numeracy tasks for grades 8-9, plus ideas on incorporating apply, solve, analyze, communicate in upper grades.

Workshop C Inside the calculus box: students' first year university experience Kseniya Garaschuk, UFV (Room 1900)
In this session, we will discuss various aspects of students' experience in a first year university calculus course. We will start with a quick overview of a typical first-year university calculus course, its structure, content and prerequisites. We will then focus on the prerequisites as I will share the results of running a Calculus Readiness Test in two post-secondary institutions and several local high schools. I will describe the Precalculus Review Package I created and provided my calculus students with, how I integrated it into my courses and what the students' feedback was.

In the second part of the session, we will examine the human element of students' calculus experience. I will share some data on students attitudes towards and perceptions of mathematics before and after first year university calculus. We will then dig deeper and read through my students' reflection pieces on their calculus journey, where they describe how it compared to high school courses, what their expectations were coming in, how they compared to the reality, and how they see calculus fitting into their university experience as a whole.

12:00 PIMS Award Ceremony Presenting 2018 PIMS Education Prize to Julia Pevtsova, Washington University (Room 1900 - Fletcher Challenge Theatre)

12:15 Lunch (Room 1525) 

13:00 Plenary Talk: What Makes Algebra So Hard? Knowing versus Doing Deborah Hughes Hallett, University of Arizona/Harvard Kennedy School (Room 1900 - Fletcher Challenge Theater)
For too many students, algebra is the subject that derails their career aspirations. Why can the subject be so hard to learn? In this talk we look how students approach algebra and how we think about what we expect them to learn. We also consider how students’ confidence affects their approach. The goal of the talk is to attempt to spark a discussion between schools and universities that will help us all refocus our courses.

14:15 Panel Discussion Outreach: Challenges and Rewards (Room 1900 - Fletcher Challenge Theatre)
Julia Pevtsova (U Washington), Melania Alvarez (PIMS), Brenda Davison (SFU), Richard Hoshino (Quest), Natalia Kouzniak (SFU), Petra Menz (SFU), Malabika Pramanik (UBC)

15:45 Concluding Remarks