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Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences

Mathematics Education Colloquium Series

department of mathematics and department of teacher education

This lecture series in Mathematics Education is supported by Teachers for a New Era (TNE), and is organized by Profs. CK Cheung and Solomon Friedberg (Mathematics) and Prof. Lillie Albert (Teacher Education). It is intended for math educators at all levels, school administrators and support staff, mathematicians interested in K-12 math education, and future math educators. In-service mathematics teachers are especially encouraged to attend, as are all Noyce Teaching Fellows and Master Teaching Fellows who are participating in BC's NSF funded program "Exemplary Mathematics Educators for High-need Schools."

2016-2017 Colloquium Schedule

Thursday, September 29, 2016, 4:00 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.

Location: Campion 139, Boston College
Speaker: Professor Janine Remillard, University of Pennsylvania
Title: Increasing Access to Mathematics through Locally Relevant Curriculum
Abstract: Janine Remillard will present work of the Community Based Mathematics Project of Philadelphia, a group of university educators and middle-school teachers who have developed context-rich mathematics curriculum to reflect and leverage resources in their local community. The talk will introduce the framework guiding the collaborative work of the project, share example lessons from their collection, and offer guidance for developing locally relevant curriculum in any setting.

Thursday, November 10, 2016, 4:00 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.

Location: Campion 139, Boston College
Speaker: Dr. James Tanton, former college and high school teacher and Mathematician-at-Large of the Mathematical Association of America
Title: Exploding Dots: Uniting elements of the K-12 curriculum–and beyond–in one fell swoop!
Abstract: Here is a story that isn't true. When I was a young child I invented a machine (not true) that was nothing more than a series of boxes that could hold dots. And these dots would, upon certain actions, explode. And with this machine (in this non-true story) I realized that I could explain true things! I could explain all the mathematics of arithmetic I learnt in grade school (true), all the of the polynomial algebra I was to learn in high-school (true), elements of calculus and number theory I was to learn in university (true), and explore unanswered research questions mathematicians are studying today (also true)!

Come join us as we explore the power of an astounding simple mathematical construct pushed to the max. Experience deep creative discovery first-hand and true joyous mathematics doing. And bring pencil and paper. This session will have you jotting down notes and playing with lots of ideas.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017, 4:00 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.

Location: Campion 139, Boston College
Speaker: Dr. John Staley, Director, PreK-12 Mathematics, Baltimore County Public Schools and President, NCSM

Wednesday, March 1, 2017, 4:00 to 5:15 p.m.

Location: Campion 139 (may be changed), Boston College
Speaker: Prof. Jon R. Starr, Harvard University, Graduate School of Education


2015-2016 Seminar Schedule

Thursday, October 8, 2015, 4:00 p.m.

Place: Campion 139
Speaker: Yvonne Lai (University of Nebraska)
Title: Knowledge and tasks connecting elementary, secondary, and disciplinary mathematics
Abstract: A well-prepared teacher should be able to help her students see mathematics as ideas that develop over time. Mathematics courses designed specifically for prospective secondary teachers aim for prospective teachers to see and find connections across elementary, secondary, and disciplinary mathematics, and beyond that to be able to use those connections in their future teaching. While there is broad agreement with these aims, there is also little consensus around how to carry them out. Two challenges in meeting these aims are identifying content that lends itself to such connections and designing tasks that can be used to engage with that content. In this talk, I will propose a few examples of content and tasks, and discuss what may make them useful. I will then invite the audience to contribute ways they have used their teaching to meet the challenge of identifying content and designing tasks for the purpose of connecting elementary, secondary, and disciplinary mathematics.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015, 4:00 p.m.

Place: Campion 139
Speaker: Doug Sovde (Director of Content and Instructional Support, PARCC, Inc.)
Title: How Evidence Centered Design Can Support Improved Teaching and Increased Learning of Mathematics

In a climate of greater and greater calls for information by which to make decisions about instruction, program, hiring, and support, it is reasonable-
-- even necessary -- to understand the process by which such information is created. Evidence Centered Design (ECD) and its various applications to educational tool design can provide a map in an otherwise confounding labyrinth of trial and error to determine “what works.”In his presentation, Doug Sovde, Director of Mathematics Design and Development at Parcc Inc. will describe how ECD has been the foundational design approach for tools ranging from the PARCC summative test to professional learning around instructional leadership and provide a process by which educators can apply ECD in their own work.

In his presentation, Doug Sovde, Director of Mathematics Design and Development at Parcc Inc. will describe how ECD has been the foundational design approach for tools ranging from the PARCC summative test to professional learning around instructional leadership and provide a process by which educators can apply ECD in their own work.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016, 4:00 p.m.

Place: Campion 139
Speaker: Dr. Kristin Umland, University of New Mexico
Title: What Every Algebra Teacher Needs to Know about the Foundations of Algebra
Abstract: We all know what a successful trajectory through algebra looks like, but unfortunately many students do not experience it. Why do so many struggle with algebra? And what can we do about it? In this talk, we will begin with a quick tour of the cognitive foundations of numbers and operations and the development of the concepts that lay the foundations for algebra. Then we will review some evidence that students who are behind at entry to algebra are missing some of the fundamental building blocks from their earliest years, contrary to the popular notion that students are just a few years behind in their mathematical development. Then we will discuss some strategies to help struggling middle and high school students fill in these gaps.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016, 3:30 p.m.

Place: Campion 139
Speaker: Dr. Sarah Sword, Educational Development Center
Title: How Square is a Rectangle?
Abstract: Mathematical Habits of Mind are the specialized ways of approaching mathematical problems and thinking about mathematical concepts that resemble the ways employed by mathematicians. These habits are not about particular definitions, theorems, or algorithms that one might find in a textbook; instead, they’re about the thinking, mental habits, and research techniques that mathematicians employ to develop such definitions, theorems, or algorithms. Some examples of MHoM follow:
  • Discovering the structure that is not apparent at first by experimenting and seeking regularity and/or coherence.
  • Choosing a useful representation—or purposefully toggling among various representations—of a mathematical concept or object.
  • Purposefully transforming and/or interpreting algebraic expressions—e.g., rewriting x2 - 6x +10 as (x - 3)2 + 1 to reveal its minimum value.
In this session, we will begin with an exploration of how to measure the “squareness” of rectangles: the degree to which a particular rectangle is close to (or far from) being a square. We will use this geometric question to explore the habit of mind of “discovering structure that is not apparent at first,” which is closely related to Common Core State Standard for Mathematical Practice MP7, “Look for and make use of structure.”


2014-2015 Seminar Schedule 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014, 4:00 p.m.

Place: Campion 139
Speaker: Dr. Mitchell Chester
Title: Mathematics Educators for Tomorrow's Citizens
Abstract: Dr. Mitchell Chester, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education will speak on Roles and Preparation of Mathematics Teacher Leaders, followed by a conversation on this topic with Dr. Chester and a panel of in-service math teachers.

Monday, December 8, 2014, 3:30 – 4:30 p.m.

Place: Campion 139
Speaker: Professor Bernard Hodgson, Universite de Laval, Quebec
Title: The mathematical education of secondary school teachers in Québec: comments from a mathematician’s perspective

In this talk, I wish to reflect on the mathematical education of secondary school teachers. I will first offer comments on the role of mathematicians in teacher education, inspired both by my personal experience as well as by actions of the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction (ICMI). I will also discuss a few general issues related to the preparation and development of mathematics teachers, based in part on the outcomes from a Study organized on that theme by ICMI.

In the next part of my talk, I will present the context for the preparation of schoolteachers in Canada, and more specifically in the province of Québec (education being of provincial jurisdiction in Canada). Comments will be offered about the two main models for teacher education in Canada: the so-called consecutive model, where the pedagogical content is addressed after a first university degree, and the concurrent model, where the choice of a teacher education program is made upon entering university.

I will then examine some of the themes around which the mathematics preparation of schoolteachers is articulated at my university. I will stress in particular the context of mathematics courses specifically designed for teachers offered by my department and survey the main themes discussed. Finally, examples will be given of mathematical topics presented in these courses, mostly in connection with a course on the history of mathematics for prospective secondary school teachers.


Bernard R. Hodgson is Professor of Mathematics at Université Laval. He was secretary general of the International Commission on Mathematics Instruction from 1999 to 2009, and is a member of the Committee on Education of the European Mathematical Society.

Thursday, March 26, 2015, 3:30 – 5:00 p.m.

Place: Campion 139
Speaker: Professor Guershon Harel, University of California, San Diego
Title: Guiding Principles for the Implementation of the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics
Abstract: The Common Core State Standards in Mathematics (CCSSM) are not about how to teach mathematics; rather, they are about the mathematics that should be taught. However, the mathematics depicted in the CCSSM demands particular ways of teaching, for this “mathematics” includes not only subject matter—collections of definitions, theorems, proofs, problems and their solutions, algorithms, etc.—but also ways of thinking. Teachers must be given ample opportunities to develop this new view of mathematics and mathematics teaching, and be equipped with the pedagogical content knowledge to bring students to uncover mathematical ideas. The purpose of this talk is to discuss guiding principles for the development and acquisition of both this new view of mathematics and the pedagogical content knowledge necessary to bring students to acquire and internalize mathematical ideas.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Place: Campion 139
This lecture is sponsored jointly with U Mass Boston.
Speaker: Rochelle Gutiérrez, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Title: When Teaching Mathematics Gets Political