The Future Project: Inspiration & Collaboration Across Cultures in Mathematics Education
By Margaret Mart
Having lived and studied in three different countries, I’ve been exposed to a number of teaching philosophies. These cross-cultural experiences in education have shaped my own classroom strategies to incorporate new and different ways of teaching from around the world. I feel that this philosophy has helped me become a better math teacher, particularly for the students at Park Academy who might need access to several different ways of teaching one concept. Having seen the value in this, I was very excited to continue my own education and exposure to new ideas at a conference this past month.
At the beginning of September, I had an opportunity to be part of the 14th International Conference “Challenges in Mathematics Education for the Next Decade,” organized as a part of The Mathematics Education for the Future Project. One hundred and fourteen mathematics educators and researchers from 21 countries met in a beautiful Hungarian town, Balatonfüred. From Sunday to Friday we had an opportunity to participate in over seventy presentations and workshops. I was invited to present my research on utilizing technology in mathematics.
(From left to right) Margaret Mart with Janina Morska, co-organizer of the 14th International Conference Challenges in Mathematics Education for the Next Decade.
Each of us represented diverse knowledge and experience related to our countries of origin but we all shared an enormous passion for teaching mathematics! As we listened to each other, we quickly realized that the difficulties with math education that we experience in different places in the world are very much similar; challenges in mathematics education can be a universal experience. As presentations brought more and more evidence of these challenges, we started looking for solutions. What could we do to make the situation better? How can we teach mathematics more effectively?
Making mathematics fun seemed an obvious answer. For example, Dr. Gazit (Israel) had a presentation about humor in mathematics, while Prof. Grzegorczyk (USA) showed some examples of interactive learning using activities, games, technology, and magic. Dr. Zell (Germany) stressed the role of differentiation in math lessons. He examined the school system of the former German Democratic Rep
ublic and their ways of differentiation as possible methods that could be adopted today by mathematics teachers. We believed that technology could play an important role in teaching mathematics, but there needs to be monitored by teachers.
The introduction of new teaching technology played an important role at the conference. Douglas Butler, the director of iCT Training Centre (UK) outlined the benefits of the Autograph, a dynamic software for 2D and 3D geometry, statistics, and probability. This is a wonderful tool for secondary and college level math. We also received several slides with interactive activities that could be used to teach algebra, geometry, as well as probability and statistics.
My presentation was related to technology. I introduced a new way of using graphing calculators as a tool in teaching factoring quadratic functions to introductory algebra students. I plan to continue my research and present my results in 2019 at the next conference in Ireland.
When it comes to teaching students who learn differently, the more you know, the better. Being able to teach a subject through a variety of methods allows you to tap into your students’ potential and challenge them in new ways. This conference brings together a variety of education professionals with all different perspectives, cultures, and experiences to produce a wealth of knowledge and ideas around classroom theory.
The most crucial part of participating in the conference is that the dialogue between math educators and researchers from around the world will be on going. My new international colleagues and I continue to exchange new articles, research, books, pieces of technology, interesting problems to solve, or even questions.
I find this kind of international collaboration inspiring, both personally and professionally. It has given me new ideas for my students and reminded me how important it is to continue to seek new ideas from the global community of math educators. It is wonderful to be a part of an international community of crazy passionate math educators!
– Margaret Mart