## CMESG Day 4

Well, CMESG is wrapping up. It has been a good experience. Firstly, I am pleasantly surprised by the format of the study group. All weekend, I’ve been working with incredible people in math education to wrap my head around the notion of problem based learning. Everyday, we get to work together in small groups. The CMESG does not feel like a usual conference where one rushes from session to session.

Secondly, I am brimming with new ideas. There are lots of ew math education concepts to consider. I feel like I have a whole new vocabulary for thinking about what I want students to get from problems. My new project is to start workshopping some mathematically rich problems with students. My group has also asked me to write a comparison between IBL and PBL approaches. Are they mutually exclusive? Complementary? I’ll find out in Denver.

Today, I got to spend a lot of time with Rochelle Gutierrez, the second plenary speaker of the conference. She talked about her work “Living Mathematx: Towards a Vision for the Future” which attempts to theorize a more holistic ecological approach to mathematics. As for me, I really liked it and found that “living mathematx” resonated well with my thinking about teaching and learning. It tries to get at a kind of embodied ethics driven approach to mathematics which acknowledges other beings. I would say that my mentorship work is “mathematx” and my university teaching is “mathematics”.

## CMESG Day 3

Today at CMESG, we met with our working groups again. My working group on “problem based learning” started to design lesson plans around our problems. I was in the team of people working on upper-division problems. In particular, we wanted to design a lesson around the problem:

Classify the Platonic solids and prove that there are only five.

This turned out to be much larger than we expected, and the problem sort of blew-up in our face. We were not sure where to get started. It was a neat instance of what commonly happens when people approach a new problem; it gets out of hand and they’re not sure how to proceed. We struggled to figure out how much graph theory and group theory to introduce. Where would people take the problem?

If I were to run a problem based learning session, I’d like to go through a three levels of testing before trying the session with my students.

- Try the problem on a non-mathematical friend. Is this interesting?
- Experiment with some math friends. What content might it have?
- Take the problem to a math club as a lesson plan. Where do people take it?

Once I knew that the problem was intrinsically interesting, could have some mathematical content, and wouldn’t go too wonky, I would write it up as a lesson plan to be used in a real class.

## CMESG Day 2

We’re on Day 2 of the CMESG. I attended my first working group, on the theme of Problem Based Learning. This approach to teaching focuses on students’ experience of solving large open-ended tasks. Our working group is going to design a curriculum for “The Problem Based Learning University” which is a theoretical institution with 8000~10000 undergraduates, 500 graduate students, with “standard” service courses and no math program. We’re taking a problem based learning to problem based learning. I love this kind of meta-application of techniques.

We’d be teaching classes to:

- Engineering
- Commerce
- Life Science
- Humanities
- Pre-Health
- Arts
- Education

A good problem should be: “Real”, whatever that means.

Some other criteria that came up for us:

- Comprehensible (Language, culturally, student level)
- Investigative
- Interpretable
- Multiple paths & solutions
- Possibility of no solution
- Opportunity for meaningful failure
- Undirected and require independent thinking
- In class or long term term with research

For me, problem based learning requires bringing students an intrinsically interesting problem. I want to find problems that are engaging on their own. One good criteria for a worthwhile problem is that anyone who is curious would want to know how to solve it. Would my aunt want to solve this question?

How do sundials work? How could we build one?

The topic session that I went to today was: “*Culturally Sustaining Mathematics Education: Connecting Indigenous Knowledge and Western Mathematical Ways of Knowing*” given by Ruth Beatty (Lakehead University) and Colinda Clyne (Upper Grand District School Board).

## CMESG Day 1

Today the Canadian Math Education Study Group started up in Antigonish, NS. The purpose of CMESG is to get people in math education together in small working groups. Each group focuses on one specific “theme” in math education, and meets for three days to work on it.

The first event that I went to was an introduction to ‘for the learning of mathematics‘ a math education journal closely affiliated with the CMESG. It looks like a good venue for discussing ideas in math education, considered broadly. I am going to read through the issue that they gave me, and report back soon.

We also had a plenary presentation by Jean-Marie de Koninck, an amazing polymath from Laval University. He is a prolific researcher in analytic number theory, a world class swim coach, a math populariser, and more! He told us about the growth and development of Science and Math in Action. We got to hear how a change encounter with TV has grown in to a full time production of math shows for schools. The history about the gradual development of ShowMath 1 and 2 (for High Schools) and Le Petit ShowMath (for Elementary Schools) was fascinating. These are live performances involving a math professor and some professional comedians or clowns. It sounds amazing.

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