MathEd Forum

September 17, 2014

Mathematics Online: Present Examples and a Look to the Future


The public is invited to attend keynotes by two prominent leaders in mathematics education.

February 27, 2003; OISE Auditorium, 252 Bloor St. West

7:00 - 9:00 pm Keynotes by Seymour Papert and Alan Kay
9:00 - 9:30 pm Questions/Discussion


Seymour Papert is a mathematician and one of the early pioneers of Artificial Intelligence. Additionally, he is internationally recognized as the seminal thinker about ways in which computers can change learning. Born and educated in South Africa where he participated actively in the anti-apartheid movement, Dr. Papert pursued mathematical research at Cambridge University from 1954-1958. He then worked with Jean Piaget at the University of Geneva from 1958-1963. It was this collaboration that led him to consider using mathematics in the service of understanding how children can learn and think. He is the developer of LOGO.

Alan Kay is a mathematician best known for the idea of personal computing, the conception of the intimate laptop computer, and the inventions of the now ubiquitous overlapping-window interface and modern object-oriented programming. His deep interest in children and education was the catalyst for these ideas, and it continues to be a source of inspiration to him. His most recent work is on the development of Squeak - a new kind of electronic paper that can hold new ways to represent powerful ideas - designed to help children learn to think better and deeper than most adults can.

These keynote talks are available in RealPlayer streaming video format through the Fields website here.

Theme and Purpose of the Meetings

On-line teaching and learning is quickly becoming a significant part of curriculum delivery in university undergraduate and teacher education programs, in colleges, and in elementary and secondary schools. In particular, there has been a movement toward providing on-line learning experiences in mathematics.

We believe that on-line delivery of course material developed to reflect the lessons of research and best practice hold out the promise of improvements in the areas of access, equity, efficiency, flexible learning opportunities, and the overall quality of the educational experience for students.

On the other hand, on-line learning carries with it risks and perils including, enormous development and delivery costs, the risk of entrenching 19th century pedagogical practices via 21st century technology, student isolation, reduced student support, and providing the student with an impoverished educational experience.

These hopes and concerns have motivated the Mathematics Education Forum of the Fields Institute to strike a working committee to investigate on-line mathematics learning. This committee has initiated a series of actions. These actions have included holding a working session devoted to on-line learning at the Institute, November 15-17, 2001. This meeting raised some fundamental questions about on-line learning in mathematics. The report generated by this meeting, entitled On-Line Mathematics: Visions and Opportunities, Issues and Challenges, and Recommendations can be viewed here.

A summary of the report can be found here.

The Fields on-line mathematics committee is also planning a second working session on on-line mathematics learning in February 2003 and the report from that meeting will be made available to the public. As part of this session, the February 27 keynote addresses for the working session, given by Seymour Papert and Alan Kay, are open to the public and all are invited to attend.

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