Dr. Egan Chernoff, PhD '09 (Mathematics Education)
On a cold day in April of 2014, a group of nearly 200 Albertans rallied outside the Provincial Legislature protesting the province’s new math curriculum. The demonstration was just one of many skirmishes in what has been dubbed 'the Canadian math wars'. Dr. Egan Chernoff is working to bring about a cease-fire.
Chernoff, known online as MatthewMaddux, is an Associate Professor of Mathematics Education at the University of Saskatchewan and editor of the Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education. He completed a PhD in Education at SFU in 2009.
“People think of math as this scary thing and that has led to this polarized public opinion on what is the most effective approach for teaching math—discovery learning or fundamentals. The problem is that both approaches have merit, but when the debate is positioned as one or the other everybody suffers,” he says.
Chernoff is helping to create a more balanced and open climate for the teaching and learning of math by starting with the people that are the first touch point for many students: teachers.
“I was leading a teacher training session and asked all the incoming teachers if any of them couldn’t read. No one raised their hand. Then I asked if any of them couldn’t do math. Almost everyone one raised their hand. I want to help teachers stop hating or being afraid of math and instead start enjoying and using it,” he says.
Chernoff also supports the math teaching and learning community at a broader scale by helping connect teachers with new (and old) tools. In addition to regular tweets on cutting edge math resources, Egan runs a blog that he describes as “a digital repository of . . . mathematics education signals.”
No stranger to traditional publishing channels, Egan also recently released a series of three books featuring selected archival material from the Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan Associations of Math Teachers. He explains that his goal with the project was to help share what he described as a ‘treasure trove’ of lessons and teaching approaches from the last 50 years with today’s math teachers.
Chernoff's impressive track record, he explains, is the direct result of Dr. Rina Zazkis and his SFU graduate training, “The environment at SFU was inspiring, the faculty there were publishing research at a tremendous rate as well as receiving accolades for their teaching. It really set a high standard,” he says.
In addition, Chernoff notes the exceptional collegiality nurtured by the program—something he strives to replicate now as a faculty member himself.
“At SFU I was always treated as a peer. I am proud to able to reciprocate and create that now for others—supporting student to develop their own scholarly practice, that is the gem hidden in all the papers and conference presentations,” he says.
Author: Jackie Amsden