MAT 2016

Tomorrow’s alarm is set for a rather ridiculous 4:00am. I’m heading down to the Annual Conference of the Mathematical Association of Tasmania in Burnie. I can’t believe it’s taken me 36 years to get to Tasmania, but I can’t think of a better reason than maths.

I’m giving the opening keynote on Friday, and a couple of workshops on Saturday. (I couldn’t decide between the workshops, so I volunteered both. Sucker.) I don’t know the times for all of them yet, but if you are at the conference, you’ll work it out.

If you’ll be at MAT 2016, I’d love to meet you! If you won’t be there, follow along with the hashtag (#MATConf16), or join the live stream of my session (see below). I’ll post workshop slides, and links to videos, eventually.

FRIDAY: ‘More than mathematics: developing effective problem solvers’

Apparently I’m talking just before the conference dinner at a whisky distillery. That right there is an incentive to finish on time, or risk being walked out on.

Complex, loosely-defined problems encountered in both the workplace and everyday life demand more than technical proficiency in mathematics. They also require broader capabilities including formulating problems, devising and implementing solution approaches, creativity, teamwork, project management, and communication skills. Significantly, these skills are often needed for any challenging mathematical problem — independent of whether it originates in the ‘real world’ or not.

So, how do we prepare our students with these skills in a mathematical setting? How can we develop and broaden their abilities and confidence in posing and solving mathematical problems? To address these questions, I’ll draw on my experiences as an industrial mathematician, training workplace-ready students, and teaching a new course designed to build mathematical thinking and problem-solving skills in pre-service teachers through games and puzzles.

SATURDAY: ‘Prompting productive mathematical discussions’

This workshop will be streamed out live through the Connect with Mathematics initiative of the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers. Talk about upping the difficulty level!

The livestream is Saturday 14 May at 9am (WA), 10:30am (SA, NT), 11am (ACT, VIC, TAS, NSW, QLD). The free registration and access link is here. It should also be available afterwards on Vimeo.

Mathematical conversations are crucial to mathematics learning. By trying to explain their problem-solving approaches and solution strategies to convince others that they are right, students refine their thinking and improve their problem-solving skills. Appropriate tasks, in which everyone can meaningfully contribute ideas, also help students feel valued and mathematically competent. This workshop will be packed full of tasks, ideas and structures to encourage rich mathematical discussions with links to a range of resources.

SATURDAY: ‘Building (and rejecting!) mathematical intuition’

With a big hat-tip to Tracy Zager for prompting me to think more about this. Tracy’s upcoming book ‘Becoming the math teacher you wish you’d had‘ has a thoughtful chapter on intuition and a beautiful cover. Out December 2016. Put it on your Christmas list. (I’ll remind you about it when it gets closer. I think there will be an Australian distributor by then, too.)

Mathematical reasoning often relies on intuition — an instinct for what `feels right’ or `makes sense’. Problem solving can zigzag between logical reasoning and intuitive understanding, right up to the point where intuition is either confirmed or totally rejected. This workshop will explore ways in which mathematical intuition can be developed. We will also look at delightful non-intuitive mathematical problems — from probability to geometry — and discuss how to bridge the gap between wrong intuitive thinking and correct but counter-intuitive analytical calculations.

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