Math education "at the edge"

July 15, 2014

Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia are proud to co-host “Mathematics Education at the Edge,” a joint International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (PME) and PME-NA conference. The event runs July 15th to July 20th, and will bring participants from 51 countries for illuminating discussions about the future of mathematics education research.

The time is now to share ideas and knowledge

Numeracy, or the ability to understand and use mathematical information, continues to be a challenge. According to the Conference Board of Canada, Canada gets an above average letter grade of ‘B’ in education and skills. Looking into each subject area though proves to be a different story. Adult numeracy skills plummet to a letter grade of ‘C.’ One reason behind this could be that “individuals can lose skills after they leave school, through lack of use” (Education, How Canada Performs, 2014).

"Numeracy is a foundational skill for individuals and is important for society. High levels of numeracy are associated with better opportunities for life-long learning, as well as success at work. A workforce with high levels of numeracy enhances Canada's ability to meet the increasing skill demands of the global economy." (Government of Canada, Indicators of Well-being in Canada)

The hope for the outcome of this conference is “to gather and share our research the way others do in [their] respective fields. We are trying to improve mathematical abilities for all. This has been the perennial goal for almost 40 years,” says Dr. Peter Liljedahl, conference co-chair and SFU Faculty of Education Associate Professor.

Through a host of workshops and presentations, the conference provides an opportunity for attendees to share and discuss mathematics education research that is on the cutting edge, whether it be breaking new ground with innovative research methodologies (gesture analysis or eye-tracking software) or working with groups and issues that are often positioned at the fringe of educational research (e.g. social justice, peace education, equity, Indigenous education). 

Dr. Nathalie Sinclair, mathematics education professor at SFU, will take part in a discussion group on multi-modal technologies. Her study, “Number's subtle touch: expanding finger gnosis in the era of multi-touch technologies" uses TouchCounts, an iPad app designed to enable immediate, multi-touch interaction through fingers and gestures. "These multi-touch interfaces, coupled with our growing appreciation for the role of the body in thinking and learning—even in mathematics—are changing the way children are doing arithmetic," says Sinclair. "They enable rich visual and haptic modes of doing mathematics, rather than only alphanumeric and symbolic ones. It's not just teaching and learning that is at the edge in this conference, but also mathematics itself."


About PME and PME-NA

The International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (PME) is an autonomous body, governed as provided for in the constitution. It is an official subgroup of the International Commission for Mathematical Instruction (ICMI) and came into existence at the Third International Congress on Mathematics Education (ICME3) held in Karlsruhe, Germany in 1976. The North American Chapter of the PME (PME-NA) is affiliated with PME and shares the same major goals as PME.

The 2014 joint meeting is the 38th meeting of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (PME 38) and the 36th meeting of the North American Chapter of the Psychology of Mathematics Education (PME-NA 36). Given the common roots and the uncommon numbering we have chosen to refer to this joint meeting as PME 2014 and will operate under the PME policies and practices.

Conference theme

Mathematics Education at the Edge has been chosen as the theme of the conference. Academically, the theme provides opportunities to highlight and examine mathematics education research that is: 1) breaking new ground or on the cutting edge of innovative research and research methodologies; and 2) exploring issues with groups that are often positioned at the edge or periphery of educational research such as social justice, peace education, equity, and Indigenous education. Geographically, the theme Mathematics Education at the Edge describes the very place of the conference setting, Vancouver, a city situated at the edge of Canada on the Pacific Ocean and Coast Mountain Range.

Plenary speakers include:

  • George Hart, Stony Brook University, NY – “Informal Education that Teaches that Math is Cool.”
  • Gabriele Kaiser, University of Hamburg – “Professional Knowledge of (Prospective) Mathematics Teachers – Its Structure and Development.”
  • Orit Zaslavsky, New York University – “Thinking With and Through Examples.” Luis Radford, Laurentian University – “On Teachers and Students: An Ethical Cultural-Historical Perspective.”

SFU speakers and workshop leaders include:

  • Dr. Peter Liljedahl – on building thinking classrooms
  • Dr. Nathalie Sinclair – will be part of a discussion group on multi-modal technologies, and will present on children’s use of touch technology with Dr. David Pimm, which is based on a study that observed three and four year-olds exploring touch senses on her iPad application, TouchCounts
  • Dr. Rina Zazkis – on the use of a script-writing method in teacher education courses

Some participating SFU Faculty of Education graduate students participating include:

  • Oi-Lam Ng – “The relationship between gestures, language and diagrams for bilingual mathematical leaners.”
  • Cindy Xin, Veselin Jungis, Jamie Mulholland and Harpreet Kaur – Are looking at the ‘flipped classroom’-style of teaching in undergraduate calculus classes
  • Harpreet Kaur – The use of dynamic geometry software in elementary classrooms
  • Kevin Wells – Students use of gesture and mimicry when working with others to do math
  • Veda Roodla Persad – Sofya Kovalevskaya: Mathematics as fantasy