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If only our Policy on Mathematics Education could Change

Some people, no matter how many years of practice they get trying to do simple math in their heads, just never learn to do well. Could there be an explanation for this – an explanation for instance that gets them off the hook? Well, research at the Johns Hopkins University actually may be able to do that. Apparently, some of us are just genetically hopeless at math (as if anyone needed proof of that). Math education really would benefit from a bit of awareness of this.

Apparently, to do well in math, a person needs something that the researchers call a number sense. What is a number sense, you ask? Take for instance how some people can look into a doctor’s waiting room or something for just a second, and come away with an impression of exactly how many people there are there. They don’t even need to count. Some people can just know how many minutes have passed since a phone call started or something. They don’t need to count. Apparently, your ability to do real high school math depends in great part on how good you are with your number sense.

So researchers are now wondering if before schools try to go and teach a kid any real book-math (to coin the term), they should try to teach them a number sense if they don’t have one already. This could get them ready for real school math. This could be very important for the way math education is done.

In general, humans are born with a number sense. For the study, they rounded up a couple of hundred four-year-olds to test them for number sense. They were for instance, shown a bunch of dots of different colors on a computer for a second. And then, they were asked to estimate what dots were the most numerous. The children also given a test for elementary math of the kind that children their age are usually given in school. They found that kids who did well with the flashing dots test did well in elementary math as well.

It’s important to remember for those who have a stake in mathematics education that while a number sense may be inborn in some, it is completely learnable to others.

America today is a country that’s losing touch with its roots, so struck with fear as if that India and China may be overtaking it in math. There is even talk of America taking inspiration from India’s mathematics education system (which isn’t a good one and all as anyone in the know will tell you). Perhaps all America should do is to take up mathematics education in a scientific way instead.

UCTM Conference: Check it out!!

This year’s UCTM conference will be on Oct. 24th (Fri. evening)and 25th (Sat.) at Jordan High School in Sandy, Utah

  • Register for the UCTM conference.
  • Access infomation about the UCTM Conference
  • Nominate someone for an Award
  • Present at the Fall 2008 UCTM Conference (please fill out the Presentation Proposal Form).
  • Participate in Utah’s Largest Math Event

Utah Mathematics Teacher Journal

The Utah Mathematics Teacher, the official journal of the Utah Council of Teachers of Mathematics, will begin its first publication in the fall of 2008.  Editorial correspondence should be e-mailed to Christine Walker at Christine.walker@uvu.edu.

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Building the UCTM Site

Over the course of the next several months we, the UCTM Web Team, will be working on this site. While we could have waited to launch the site until it was fully stocked with content and goodies, it was decided that there were certain items that needed to be made available immediately. The list of available resources will grow and the amount of information accessible will increase with time. It is our goal to create a site that will help math teachers be successful.

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MISSION: To promote quality teaching and learning of mathematics in Utah, UCTM will: 

  • Provide essential opportunities for professional collaboration among mathematics educators and advocates.
  • Communicate and publicly advocate for mathematics education in Utah.
  • Recognize and honor exemplary performance in mathematics by Utah students and teachers.

 

MEMBERSHIP:  Create an account (at left) to receive a FREE e-membership to UCTM with the following benefits:

  • Monthly emails with important information about Utah mathematics education including
    • Conferences
    • Latest web resources
    • Professional Development opportunities
    • Updates from the State Office of Education
    • Access to monthly web discussions and conversations about ongoing topics of interest (see Forums)
    • More… (please feel free to suggest your ideas)