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Deconstructing the Math Teacher

Annual Distinguished Lecture focused on finding the balance between what needs to be taught and what's already there

Mathematics teachers' disciplinary knowledge is by far the most prominent topic among math education researchers, and today, there are two main schools of thought on the subject.

The first is that teachers' knowledge is mostly formal, learned and explicit, which makes it easy to quantify through testing and evaluation; the other is that this knowledge is actually more implicit, or ingrained, which means that the challenge of defining, developing, and assessing mathematics knowledge for teaching requires and, in fact, demands, much more subtle, participatory, and time-extensive strategies.

These questions have been considered for more than three decades, with surprisingly little progress made on figuring out the balance between what is easily specified and what is more deeply-rooted than that.

Brent Davis is one of those who have been pondering this issue for some time.  Davis, Professor and Distinguished Research Chair in Mathematics Education in the Werklund School of Education, has been examining highly effective mathematics teaching which he says is oriented by two key questions: what mathematics do teachers need to know, and what sorts of pre-service and in-service experiences might support the development of their disciplinary knowledge?

"The answers aren't obvious … and one of the conclusions is that educational and professional development programs have been missing the mark by focusing on what teachers don't know—explicitly-- rather than what they do know, tacitly."

Davis was selected as this year's Distinguished Lecturer; his research is developed around the educational relevance of developments in the cognitive and complexity sciences, and he teaches courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels in curriculum studies, mathematics education, and educational change.
His talk, "The math teachers know: challenging basics in a changing world" took place on October 16 in the Husky Oil Great Hall in the Rozsa Centre. 

"I hope that those who attended the presentation came away with a new awareness of what they didn't know they already knew.  If they are more connected to that deeply embodied knowledge, they'll probably be more effective teachers."

View Powerpoint Presentation (PDF)

Conference Introduction by Dennis Sumara

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Introduction by Sharon Friesen

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Brent Davis' lecture focused on finding the balance between what needs to be taught and what's already there

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