Monday, July 28, 2008

ICME Day 1

The ICME 11 has started today - the main conference for mathematics educators worldwide. As always, the first day is mainly spent on formalities and on setting the stage for things to come.

The opening consisted of a whole series of speeches - inevitable, I guess - and the distribution of the Felix Klein Awards and the Hans Freudenthal Awards for 2005 and 2007. This was a nice thing to see - both that everybody took the time to listen to praise for the lifetime achievements of some of our most wonderful colleagues, and that the prize winners showed that the prizes were actually quite important to them as a recognition of a lot of heavy work.

The winners were:
Felix Klein Award 2005: Ubitaran d'Ambrosio
Hans Freudenthal Award 2005: Paul Cobb
Felix Klein Award 2007: Jeremy Kilpatrick
Hans Freudenthal 2007: Anna Sfard

Although all four are well-known names, personally, I know the work of Ubi best, and found it particularly touching to see him thanking his wife for all her patience for 50 years...

The first two plenary lectures were on what has happened for the previous ten years and what should happen in the future. The venue for the plenary parts of the program is not very good - there is too much background noise, and it's difficult to see the screens from many positions. The solutions in the previous two ICMEs (which involved using actual buildings instead of a "tent") worked better. However, I thought that the first lecture (by Artigue and Kilpatrick) was quite inspiring and interesting. They tried to summarized the main trends in mathematics education over the previous ten years. Some keywords: more systemic approaches, a look at constraints, semiotic perspectives.

The panel on what we need to know, which was supposed to summarize the answers of educators around the globe, however, did not manage to inspire me. Well, Paul Kobb's interpretations of the (mainly US) answers from North America, were meaningful. The other three also discussed important questions, but in a way that made it look less like a panel than separate lectures. The format of plenary activities for thousands of listeners is a difficult one, indeed.

The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the workshop by one of my favorite colleagues, Peter Ransom. He and a colleague had a workshop on using sundials in the classroom. Peter is so enthusiastic that it's hard not to start loving sundials, and the activities were fun as well. I should try to find a way to include sundials in my teaching in Oslo...

That was the first day already. In between were coffee, lunches etcetera, of course. And lots of meetings with colleagues who I haven't met for 1, 4 or even 8 years. A nice start to the conference.

(As mentioned before, these posts are written during the conference, but posted afterwards.)

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