Friday, 19 May 2017

AFEMO 2016

No OAME for me this year. Follow these links for the Ontario Association for Mathematics Education Conference: from 2016, from 2015, from 2014, and from 2013. Why no 2017? By the time I realized registration was open, it was closed - there was a cap this year.

To fill the void, I'm going to provide a recap for part of the AFEMO conference - the Association Francophone pour l'Enseignement des Mathematiques en Ontario. In some sense, the French equivalent. Their conference was held back in October 2016. I was able to attend because it was locally here in Ottawa, because there was an OAME invitation extended and I'm the COMA Chapter Secretary, and (being on self-funded leave) I didn't need release time. Related, I couldn't leave town that Thursday before the Thanksgiving weekend because my car had broken down on Monday. Tensioner bolts are problematic.

The AFEMO, founded in 1991, was in fact celebrating their 25th anniversary in 2016. The conference (their 12th) took place at the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre, and had 600+ attendees over three days, starting on the evening of Wednesday October 5th and running through to Friday October 7th. Theme? "Penser mathematiques, c'est critique!"


Registration opened at 5pm. I arrived a bit before 6:30pm, and was directed where to park (underground) by someone in an orange vest flagging down cars outside. Got my badge at the reg. table, spoke with a person at the computer who said that there would be a handout tomorrow of room numbers and I could pick sessions as needed. Others received a printout of their preselected sessions and rooms at the time. It seemed like shoelace strings were used to self-tie the badges in place, that seemed kind of ingenious.

Photo actually taken Thurs morn
The main ballroom had a quartet of local high school musicians playing, about 45 tables seating 8 each, and a smaller side room had plates with sandwiches. Wait staff also circulated with hot foods. I had a drink ticket for alcohol from registration. Not knowing anyone (and with my French feeling a bit rusty), I wandered down among the publishers; not all were there but some were. Spoke with the UW person for a bit. Went back to grab some sandwiches and into the main room for 7pm, when things were due to begin. Sat at a random table.

About 7:15pm the speaking started. Words of introduction, Mme. Jeannine Griffore spoke (a director of Education), and there was a video of the original AFEMO founders talking -- who were also in attendance and acknowledged (given the 25th year anniversary). Pins were handed out to every table featuring a new logo.

Then the guest speaker (Mme Kim Thuy) spoke from about 7:45 until 9pm, on "Le succes de mes echecs". She's a Vietnamese-born Canadian writer, who had a number of anecdotes to share, which I mostly followed... again, my French comprehension's pretty good, but I couldn't take lots of detailed notes at the same time. There was mention of cultural comparisons, including Vietnamese teachers being the most important, versus lawyers, etc. And how "math is an exact science" even as vocabulary is new for everybody. And in my notes I've scribbled "If we take the easy road, we can die without becoming human".

Following that there were a couple notes about the next day (e.g. breakfast on your own) and the day was done. So in essence their "evening banquet" was a "buffet of sandwiches and foods", which I actually thought was fine and nice way to open things. I say this since Thursday/Friday would finish by 5pm, no evening meal.

I was only there for the Thursday, so I'll simply go through that and contrast it to Friday's schedule. Of note, a number of sessions on the schedule were tagged "MiniConference". There was one in each time slot, each time slot being for various grade levels. (The first was 11/12, second had a 9/10, then 7/8, K-3, etc.) 


Thursday (and Friday) morning started with a keynote at 8:30am. Well, prior to the keynote speech, J. Griffore said words again (learn to dream, we cannot dream what we do not understand), they gave preregistered attendance as 616, etc. Then keynote speaker (Dr Thierry Karsenti) spoke from about 9am to 10:15. Topic, "Les technologies et les mathematiques: un lien critique!"

There are technophobes, and those unable to access tech. There are techno-enthusiasts who can do anything. And there are "techno-reflechis". Find a balance. (TBI means Tableau Blanc Interactif.) What are the advantages? Students like tech, we can link with Ontario curriculum documents, a key competency in society to solve problems, more motivation/engagement, the coding revolution (Minecraft learning), it's an irreversible trend, and many more reasons. What are the disadvantages? It's a distraction (he had us do an online vote, which "created noise"), it takes time, there are harmful myths like students are the experts, the internet can go down. More advantages though!

How? Start simple, don't jump into GeoGebra. SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation/Integration, Modification, Redefinition). Let students visualize. There were 23 recommendations, I didn't write them all down. (UtahState apparently has a virtual library.) It's all about the usage. After Dr. Karsenti came a half hour break to visit publishers. At this point, there were plates of muffins, fruit, croissant and danish out in the main hallway with them.

Taylor Series!
The first session I went to was the “MiniConference 11/12”, given as “Les mathematiques par l’entremise de la science” (Pierre Sarazin et Caroline Joly). There were maybe 20-25 people (typical for all my sessions). An early point was how "Apprentissage par enquete" (Inquiry Learning) follows the scientific method - the answer is unknown. Maths seeks context when contexts should be seeking maths. A Veritasium video was shown about two balls, and the presenters had visuals on hand.

We should be ADDING steps to the scientific method, retrying our hypotheses. (Dan Meyer's basketball shoot was mentioned and shown in Desmos.) What info is missing? (Air resistance, parallax) "Video Physics" (iOS) can track objects in class (for Android, VidAnalysis). Consider "no right answer" (car gas app, if you go further away for cheaper gas, when was it updated, etc). Consider "What If" (XKCD radioactive water).

There was also a demonstration of Taylor Series in Desmos, and mention of how Active Noise Cancellation works. Audacity can be used to record. Some activities related to various functions were mentioned. Encourage discussion and hypothesizing, even the "ridiculous" - that's what's remembered. (Mr. Vaudrey "mullet ratio".)

From noon to 1pm was lunch. There were simply boxed lunches out on the tables by the exhibitors, either smoked meat or chicken. (Dietary restrictions had been asked when I arrived, I assume those were given out somewhere else.) I grabbed a box, pop was separate (thank goodness; I had water), and while I sat with some others at a table I didn't really talk much.


At 1pm I went to "L’apprentissage par enquete: est-ce possible en 12e, precollegial?" (M. St-Georges et N. Perreault-Primeau), again 20-25 people there. (Precollegial refers to the MAP4C course.) Got a coloured popsicle stick upon entry which was used to put us into groups. The session ended up largely related to Randomized Grouping and Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces, with reference to work by Peter Liljedahl and Al Overwijk. (Including 'flow' between boredom and anxiety.)

Traditional teaching versus Inquiry teaching was illustrated through "Le Gros 5 Cents" (the Sudbury nickel). We were given some information, and asked to come up with questions. We were guided to the idea of how much it would cost to make it out of actual 5 cent pieces, then split into our groups to tackle the problem on chart paper around the room. (Putting us "in their shoes".)

Our group started with the idea of "cost of a 5 cent coin" times "number necessary" with overhead costs for a prototype, making a mold, and salaries for the people working on it. Also, 5 cents today are circular, whereas the Sudbury nickel was a 12-sided shape. We were then invited to look around at what others were working on - all other groups were using formulas for volumes and such. Eh heh.

Every group gave a quick presentation in the end, then we also looked at the "Hattie Ranking of Effect Sizes", and a summary of findings by Peter Liljedahl's research (random groups takes 2-3 weeks, time to task with surfaces...). Some websites of interest were given at the end, and I saw Jon Orr, Kyle Pearce and Estimation180 up there. When that wrapped up at 2:15pm, I had to go retrieve my car; I noticed that on the tables in the hall they now had cookies and fruit bars.

I made it back for about 3pm (so only 15 min late given the snack break) for one of three bilingual sessions in that time slot (at least, the programme listed both titles), given by Dr. Christine Suurtamm. "Developper la pensee mathematique au cycle superieur/Developing Mathematical Thinking in Senior Mathematics".  She had English slides, but her handouts were French, and curriculum expectations on the slides were also French. There were 24 people (6 groups of 4, more group work). Of note, this time slot was only for Thursday, Friday was arranged a bit differently, having only one session on either side of lunch.

She had started with a look at Canada's location internationally (Dr Suurtamm spoke more about this at the 2016 COMA Social), and went on to how the verbs/actions for students in our documents are key, more than the topic. Who is doing the math in a 70 minute lesson? We did 3 activity stations, including Graphs to Prove Identities (idea of solving versus proving), Painted Cube Problem (I've used it in 3M) and Circle Walk. We're not covering the material, "we're uncovering it". The best way to prepare students for university is to deepen their understanding of maths.

That ended at 4pm, at which point everyone returned to the main room by 4:15pm for "IGNITE" sessions (Ca m'allume), presented to everybody. (On Friday, these occurred at 2:15pm.) There were three presenters. Christian Goulet, a senior student from Sarnia and CCME member led off. He spoke of the "Cafe du Monde" and posing questions. Marian Small spoke next, in English (and I recognized a variation on her Ignite talk from OAME 2016, it's #5 at this post). It included expectations for teachers, the system, and curriculum.

Dr. Serge Demers spoke last, he had an aviation metaphor for teaching maths. "Comment fAIRe en mathematiques." Planes will vary, some go father than others, some need help (the space shuttle). A professional is needed to understand the instrumentation. Takeoff is the most critical, you may have turbulence on the trip, read the safety card to help. The control tower is the schools. The path isn't straight, planes curve over the earth. Some students have more baggage than others. He finished with <"Avion"-nous tous compris?> (which I thought was damn clever).

Standing ovations were given for each (not the entire room but many). At the end, there was a reminder of a poll from the morning (list three words, results tomorrow, I don't have those), the twitter hashtag (I'd need to check my archive), and also another link was given to a google doc for anyone playing “PokemonGo” (this was near the height of it's popularity I think; I don't play). Everything wrapped up before 5pm.


The conference was definitely a different experience, in terms of the format, and I felt my thinking wasn't always so quick in French. Perhaps that put me on a more level playing field with a struggling student? Yet being there was also familiar too, with many of the same topics that might have been covered at an OAME. I'm glad I got to experience it. For reference, the AFEMO publication is "L'InforMATHeur", and conference registration confers a 24 month membership (as I believe the conference is every two years).

Any questions about the sessions, or in general? Comments? Feel free to drop me a note below. Thanks for reading, and bonne journee!

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