I won't be blogging about COMA socials any more, namely because the chapter is rebranding to the "Ottawa Zone For Mathematics Educators" (O34ME, where O3 is the O-Zone). This first social, on September 26th, 2019, had Marian Small speak briefly. First about OAME2019 (my conference recap is here), and then about our political climate.
|Welcome to a new venue as well!|
Here's the social recap, where any errors in transcription are mine.
Marian mentioned this was a departure from her usual talks, less about math, more business and politics. The business was her having chaired the OAME Conference in Ottawa. "The best news is so much positive feedback. From around the province."
Having decided as a group not to have a keynote (as there's not one good person for everyone), Marian thinks it was a good decision, and positive things were heard about the Featured Speakers. Saturday was a Desmos day, Eli Luberoff came and not only spoke, but brought others. Many attended on Saturday. No evening sessions (figured people wanted to be with their friends) and mostly good response to that. Had an awards ceremony rather than a banquet. Cathy Hall (a winner) was given a shoutout (in attendance).
|I helped with registration|
There's always complaints, but there weren't as many as normal. The best news of all is we made money, and our chapter gets half of it. "So whatever we're called now, we have more money." (Sidebar: And we're not for profit, so it goes back to members one way or another.)
Being in the political climate we are where, and some people weren't allowed to come, we did well. "I think we were happy." And with that, Marian addressed the political side of things.
For those not in Ontario, Doug Ford became the Conservative premier in 2018 (and I blogged about that insane process here).
Marian said something along the lines of "I believe that it would be a bad world if everyone thought the same thoughts". We should have many opinions... but it would be nice if they were informed and enlightened opinions.
We as educators have a responsibility to stay clear and focused as well as polite and enlightened. We [Ontario] are a little better off than Alberta. Not a lot, but their education advisory board has no educators on it.
We have to try stuff. Marian had a CBC interview lately, remarking how we have many who talk, but who don't pay attention to the facts. Our government says math will "go back to basics" when their own EQAO report said the basics weren't the problem, it's problem solving that's the problem.
If you say this, they'll either ignore you or not ignore you, but that's all you can actually do.
The basics of Marian's OAME 2019 presentation was having a focus on understanding and thinking, not knowledge. If you have kids who don't understand, they'll forget after 3 weeks, and you have to teach it again. Whereas if they understand, then they retain it.
Problem solving is a basic kind of thing. We no longer live in an assembly line world, employers actually say they want people who can figure stuff out. So we have to teach that stuff. We're not doing it because we're into "discovery math" (which isn't even a thing), but rather, we're doing it because the world needs people who can think.
Regarding standardized testing, EQAO data can't be ignored, it's real, but you have the right -- in a polite and focused way -- to ask if they're measuring the right stuff. It measures grade level stuff that's appropriate in the curriculum. Is this the stuff that matters? That's a different question.
During EQAO, teachers can't translate the questions into regular English. "I understand why, but if [as a student] you can't ask, then we're not testing math any more. We're testing something else." And if there's a societal focus on collaboration, why do you sit by yourself to test when no one ever does that. In Quebec, part of their testing is collaborative, they talk and then go back and finish by themselves. Which is how the real world works.
We have the right and responsibility to do that. And EQAO results aren't from "discovery learning" (which isn't really happening), the issue here is they aren't talking about how the culture has changed. It matters a lot.
Marian starts wrapping things up with the comment "I have zero patience in the culture in which we live." If she was in one line, when another one was moving, she'd move. When she was growing up, if you were bored, you just sucked it up, and now parents support children in doing something.
There are very few teachers who can go out there and take all this on by themselves. It's emotionally draining. "I've done it, so I can tell you that." But if we do it together, Marian thinks it can work. As a collaborative effort. Part of our mission is making that happen. No change in any government, or textbook that anyone writes -- including her -- makes a difference.
Marian concluded her talk with some math to clarify the idea of focussing on understanding versus knowledge.
Knowledge would be "what is 4 times 8". She DOES want kids to know this. But for the understanding question, we'd want to have no numbers. For instance "how do you know 4 times 8 is more than 3 times 9?"
If you're more in grade 7 or 8, consider fractions. The difference between "add 5/8 and 3/4" versus "estimate 5/8 plus 3/4"... and if you just tell me the answer, I won't listen to you. There are also thinking questions, if you saw her OAME talk itself.
Conclusion: "We're not going to pretend things are great, because they aren't. We'll hope the ministry eventually sees, that unless they support teachers, nothing happens."
The Ottawa chapter change introduction plus Marian's talk took less than half an hour, but there was also social time, including me chatting with another teacher who brought up Caribou Math. There are actually money prizes, for a fee of only $15 per student for all contests of the year... I'm hoping I get a chance to research this more, which is partly why I'm putting it in this post. (Do you know more about it?)
Then there was a guess the items in the jar contest and door prizes; I headed out before 6pm because I have the little one at home. As to the talk itself, I felt it was relevant and possibly something educators need to hear in times like this. Would you agree?
Thanks for reading this post! I hope you were able to get something out of it; if so, or if you have any further thoughts, do drop a comment below.