Monday, July 28, 2008

ICME Day 2 (part 1)

Today's plenary speaker was Celia Hoyles, and the topic was "Technology and mathematics education: Transforming the mathematical practices of learners and teachers through digital technology". To me, it was a great talk, as it functioned as an introduction into a field in which I will work more in the coming years. She described six areas in which ICT is transforming mathematics education:

  • dynamic and visual tools to explore in shared space
  • tools to outsource processing power
  • new representational infrastructures
  • connections between school and learner's culture
  • connectivity
  • intelligent support for the teacher.

She had examples in all of these areas, and her talk certainly made me eager to get hold of the forthcoming ICMI Study on these topics.

She also referred to the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics website, and in particular the Mathemapedia - a Wikipedia for mathematics, apparently. I haven't had the time to look at it yet, but should certainly check how this site compares to my plans for a teacher education wiki locally in Norway. Maybe there will be common areas of interest.

The next lecturer was Anna Sfard. Her talk was titled "Learning mathematics as developing a discourse". Her talk was - unsurprisingly - well attended, so the room was far too small, as was her time. Anyway, I found it most interesting. She discussed what she terms as a transition from the metaphor of "aquisition" to a metaphor of "participation" as far as learning is concerned - moving from a Piagetian world to a Vygotskyan. This has far-reaching consequences. She looks at mathematics as a discourse, and a number as a "discursive construct". This has far-reaching implications when it comes to interpreting children's approach to mathematical problems.

The third item on my agenda today was the TSG23 - the topic study group on history of mathematics in education (not to be confused with the topic study group on the history of mathematics education, of course). Due to some technical difficulties, one of the talks were postponed to tomorrow's session, and only Costas Tzanakis had his talk. This was a very interesting talk on how history of mathematics may throw light on the problems pupils face when trying to learn the variance concept. One particularly striking point (to me) was how educators have tried to make the topic "soft" by including examples from social sciences instead of from physics and geometry, but have ended up making it harder. This is because the terms mean - and even variance - have clear, concrete interpretations in certain examples from physics and geometry, and because they offer the possibility of experiments.

Now, I'm having lunch break, but will go to the ASG meeting for the HPM group later this evening. But it has already been a very interesting day. (And I've also had the time to look at my own talk, which will be on Saturday. I think it will be ok.)

(As mentioned before, these posts are delayed by 20 days.)

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