PCMI International Seminar: Bridging Policy and Practice
Missing from the current discourse on mathematics education is an insightful examination of educational systems around the world from the perspective of what actually works in teaching mathematics. Many traditions and practices in mathematics education in other countries have much to offer, and there are many current practices and visions of reform against which a particular country's concepts and policies must be critically examined.
PCMI has established the International Seminar on Mathematics Education as a fundamental component of its programming. Over the long term, the function of this Seminar will be to design and implement a series of reflections on common problems, along with suggestions for policy and practice and innovative offerings that will be made available to the international community. Planning calls for the set of countries represented to be expanded over time, with continuing attention to diversity and variety in educational challenges.
The first week-long international workshop, "Bridging Policy and Practice: Mathematics Education Around the World" was held as part of the 2001 PCMI Summer Session. This seminar focused on discussing systems of mathematics education from a diverse selection of countries through the eyes of practicing teachers and those involved in education research or policy. The goals of the first international seminar were to
- make initial personal contact with policy makers and teachers from a broad cross-section of countries and cultures
- briefly examine an initial collection of topics deemed to be central to the teaching of mathematics
- develop a sense of international shared purpose in the pursuit of quality mathematics education
- select one or more topics for future in-depth study together
The participants came as teams consisting of one mathematics education policy-maker and one practicing secondary mathematics teacher from each of eight countries (Brazil, Egypt, France, India, Japan, Kenya, Sweden, USA). The program proposed discussion of each of the following issues:
- What is the relationship of national standards and national curriculum to teaching practice in classrooms in your country?
- What is the system of teacher education in your country and how does it relate to teaching practice?
- With the idea of using the area of algebra as a "case study," describe the role of algebra in the middle and secondary mathematics curriculum in your country. Similarly, how are ideas from probability and statistics currently configured in your system?
- How does your country handle the balance between tradition and reform in mathematics education? What do tradition and reform mean within your mathematics education system?
- How does your educational system decide the balance between depth and breadth, that is, between insistence on in-depth knowledge of relatively fewer core topics vs. a broad inclusion of topics, with less emphasis on each. How is this decision effected in practice?
- How does your country and culture deal with the challenges of excellence and accessibility in mathematics education? What is the balance of power and input into the system between the various educational constituencies?
- What is the role of mathematics education as a profession and of mathematics education research in your country?
Each day's deliberations were followed by reflections from Hyman Bass and Hiroshi Fujita, respectively the current president and the recent past president of the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction (ICMI).
2001 PCMI International Seminar Participant Directory (password protected)