Math Potentials already embracing “MATH FOR THE 21ST CENTURY”

Together, with some 200 policymakers, experts, professors and teachers of Mathematics, Science, Technology & Engineering (also known as STEM subjects), Math Potentials co-founder, Dr. Sirotic, attended a global conference on “Mathematics for the 21st Century” in Geneva, Switzerland.

The conference was hosted in the International School of Geneva, which is the oldest and largest operating international school in the world. It was at this school where many bold movements in education happened. For example, the concept of international education was born at this school back in 1924, and the prestigious International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) which is now taught in schools in over 140 countries was first established here in the mid-1960s.

The presentations and discussions revolved around the all-important question: What should students be learning for the 21st century?

This conference discussed top-level changes in the Mathematics school curriculum, regarding what branches and topics should be added or emphasized and why, and just as crucially, what should be de-emphasized or removed.

The conference was organized in response to the acute need for better mathematics education everywhere. In the 21st century, humanity is facing severe difficulties at the societal (global warming, financial stresses), economic (globalization, innovation) and personal levels (employability, happiness). As the world of the 21st century bears little resemblance to that of the 19th century, many stakeholders recognize that education curricula are overdue for a major redesign.

Charles Fadel, the author of the highly acclaimed book on educational transformation titled “Four-Dimensional Education” and founder of the “Fondation Helvetica Educatio”, the global educational foundation that organized this conference, opened the conference with the inspirational quote of Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. As young people of today are going to carry the great task of solving the problems of the future, their mathematical preparation is of huge importance.

In Science/Technology/Engineering/Math (STEM), demand is outpacing supply worldwide. Math being the foundation of STEM, and in turn innovation, the situation requires urgent attention. Beyond STEM professions, many countries, including Canada, are seeing very significant innumeracy in a very large segment of the population, which has severe consequences on the ability to understand the world’s difficulties and solve problems that lie ahead.

The conference featured deep, relevant and exciting topics. For example, the speakers addressed the question of what will be the nature of the jobs of the future and what fields of study will be in demand. Data Science, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Cryptography will all be in demand and will require sophisticated mathematical skills. Several presenters addressed the need to teach mathematical thinking and reasoning as opposed to mere computational skills which now calculators and computers can do for us, and which many students in various schools learn to do by memorizing procedures rather than actually understanding why and how the standard computational algorithms actually work.

One of the speakers, professor Keith Devlin from Stanford University, spoke about mathematics people really need. He used the following mathematical problem to illustrate his point.

PROBLEM: A bat and a ball cost $1.10. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost on its own? (There is no special pricing deal.)

The problem is interesting because it appears to be so simple and yet a very large proportion of people solve it incorrectly. Professor Devlin thinks that people need to be taught heuristics that make their thinking strategic, reliable and commonsensical. All too often they use naïve guesswork (illustrated in SOLUTION 1 on the slide below) or algebraic procedures which can be slow and cumbersome, and are not accessible to young learners who have not yet learned algebra (illustrated in the middle part of the slide). Notice that SOLUTION 3 is the kind of mathematics that a young student can use to reason his or her way through this problem. It is considered the most efficient, meaningful and reliable.

This is precisely the kind of mathematical thinking and reasoning that is promoted by the Singapore Math Program and its problem-based curriculum which our students are enjoying from the very start of their experience at Math Circles, in the Alpha and Beta levels. This reaffirms that Math Potentials students are on good path to becoming numerate citizens who will be prepared for the challenges of the 21st Century.

Conrad Wolfram, the founder of Mathematica (most sophisticated software for doing mathematics, used by mathematicians, engineers, and scientists) and the Internet-based computational knowledge engine Wolfram Alpha (which can answer any school math question in an instant and show the entire derivation process too) presented his talk titled “Stop Teaching Calculating, Start Teaching Maths”, urging curriculum developers and ministries of education across the globe to not confuse math with calculation, but see it for what it really is and for what it can do for humanity if we were to educate students properly in this important subject, and truly prepare them to be equipped with knowledge and skills needed for the 21st century.

There is hardly anything new in this statement, at least for those who have learned to love and understand mathematics. In 1623, the Renaissance-era physician, mathematician and astronomer Galileo wrote, ‘The universe cannot be read until we have learned the language and become familiar with the characters in which it is written. It is written in mathematical language, and the letters are triangles, circles and other geometric figures, without which means it is humanly impossible to comprehend a single word. Without these, one is wandering about in a dark labyrinth.’

Galileo wasn’t the only one to have a deep reverence for math. Modern theorists believe mathematics is humanity’s greatest invention, a system of patterns, logic and abstract symbols that describe, predict and bring elegant order to the world around us. Math may come last in the STEM acronym, but it forms the underlying basis of the three other disciplines. If STEM were represented as a pyramid, mathematics would be its foundation. This is why it is so important that children learn and love mathematics from their early age and then sustain this learning well into the university years and beyond.

 

 

Problem Solving Workshop with Math Olympian Dr. Richard Hoshino

On Saturday, June 9 we hosted a Problem Solving Workshop with Math Olympian Dr. Richard Hoshino, followed by a graduation ceremony for the students in Calculus class.

Dr. Hoshino is a mathematics professor at Quest University in Squamish, and is renowned for his inspirational math lectures. His passion for math, education and problem solving radiated through the room and inspired many of the students, teachers and special guests who attended.

Among the many takeaways we all got from the workshop was a wonderful handout on Three Problem Solving Strategies for Math and Life.

We thank Dr. Hoshino for such an inspiring session, and we look forward to the opportunity to have you again.

Over 600 Students!

We’re proud to announce that we have over 600 students enrolled this year! Thank you to all students and parents for spreading the word about our program – with your help we’ll continue to grow and to cultivate young math lovers all over Greater Vancouver. We’ve come a long way!

Global Math Project From Week One

This year, in our first week, we tried something new: In Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta classes, we participated in the Global Math Project!

The Global Math Project aims to engage students and teachers around the world in thinking and talking about the same appealing piece of mathematics during a series of annual Global Math Weeks. Last week, one million students, teachers, math leaders, and adults from around the world participated in an astounding shared mathematical experience!

The challenge was Exploding Dots – the name of an astounding mathematical story that starts at the very beginning of mathematics – it assumes nothing! – and swiftly takes you on a wondrous journey through grade school arithmetic, high-school polynomials algebra, infinite sums, and advanced mathematics. It all feels like playing a game! 

We hope everyone had fun! We captured some photos from our experience of this international project:

Free Trial Class

Join us for a free trial class to see if the Math Circles program is a good fit for you.  Students and parents are welcome! The trial class is for students of all ages to get a feel for the style of our classes.

*please note that trial classes for the 2017/18 year are now finished.

Past trial classes:

UBC, Vancouver – Saturday Sept 16 from 10:00 am to 11:15 am

SFU Burnaby – Saturday Sept 16 from 10:00 am to 11:15 am

BCIT Burnaby – Sunday Sept 17 from 10:00 am to 11:15 am

SFU Surrey – Sunday Sept 17 from 10:00 am to 11:15 am

 

UBC, Vancouver – Saturday July 15 from 10:00 am to 11:15 am 

Semiahmoo Secondary – Tuesday June 20 from 6:00 pm to 7:15 pm

UBC, Vancouver – Saturday May 13 from 9:30 to 11:00 am

SFU Surrey – Sunday May 14 from 9:00 to 10:30 am

ELMACON

ELMACON 2017 will take place on May 6th, 2017

UBC Math Circles students please note that the date of Class 16 has been changed to April 29 (it used to be May 6) so that it does not interfere with the contest. SFU Burnaby’s Class 16 falls on May 6 so students who plan to write the contest please attend Class 16 at a different campus. Plan it in advance and inform your teacher and the teacher of the make-up campus.

The ELMACON 2017 contest will take place on Saturday May 6th, 2017. Ahead of the contest, PIMS will again be running two preparations sessions for interested ELMACON competitors. These preparation sessions last for two hours and are free. They will introduce your child to the sorts of questions that will be featured in the ELMACON competition.

Please visit the website, https://www.elmacon.org/, to find out more and to register for the contest and preparation session.

Session 1: Saturday February 4th 10am-12pm

Earth Sciences Building
Room 1013
2207 Main Mall
University of British Columbia

Session 2: Saturday March 11th 10am-12pm

Earth Sciences Building
Room 1013
2207 Main Mall
University of British Columbia

Class placement emails have been sent out

The assessment tests have been marked and class placement emails were sent out on Friday September 16. New and returning students should have received and email about which class they are in, including class time, first day of class, and classroom. If you did not receive it please check your junk mail and promotional folder. Make sure to add info@mathpotentials.com to you contacts!