For the 21st Century: A Fields-Nortel
July 15 - 19, 1997
As Ontario embarks upon a major reform of the secondary school curriculum,
it is important not only to reconsider what has been taught in the past,
but also to develop a vision of the needs of our high school graduates
who will live and work in the 21st century. This Workshop
will explore the effects of agents of change which are external to the
classroom. It will focus on two main sub-themes, here called The Global
Challenge and The Technological Challenge (see below), which have the
potential to change our priorities in both "what" and "how" we teach.
By focusing on these specific themes, rather than attempting to cover
all aspects of curriculum reform, the Workshop is more likely to achieve
its objectives and to provide useful input to the process of secondary
The Workshop will bring together a select group of highly committed
Ontario mathematics educators, with leading international experts, to
explore the stated themes. Attendance will be limited to 25-30 participants.
Accommodations for participants will be provided, nearby in the University
of Toronto residences. (This is not intended as an in-service training
workshop for teachers.)
The findings of this Fields-Nortel Workshop will be published as a
white paper, which will be made available to the Ontario Ministry of
Education and Training and to Ontario educators, as well as to high
school systems in other provinces and countries. The white paper will
report the discussions and present recommendations for change in the
Ontario mathematics curriculum, with special emphasis on the needs of
university-bound students. The co-editors will be W.F. Langford, D.E.
McDougall and G. Hanna.
William Langford, Deputy Director, The Fields Institute
Douglas McDougall, Upper Canada College and OISE, University of Toronto
Robert Long, Nortel, Education Interaction
Judy Crompton, President, Ontario Association for Mathematics Education
Gary Flewelling, Queen's MSTE Group, Consultant
Ron Scoins, Associate Dean of Mathematics, University of Waterloo
Mike Wierzba, President, Ontario Mathematics Coordinators Association
Outline of Proposed Program:
In the program, approximately equal times will be allocated to informative
and provocative lectures/demonstrations on the one hand, and to discussion
groups on the other. The number of presentations will be limited, in
order to allow time to explore issues in more depth.
The first two days (Tuesday and Wednesday) will be devoted to educational
technology issues; the current state of the art and projections of the
future impact of these technologies. The emphasis is not on learning
how to use these technologies; however, hands-on labs will be provided
in the evenings for those desiring the experience.
The next two days (Thursday and Friday) will explore the implications
for mathematics education of changes taking place in the global economy;
the needs of industry and successes in other provinces/countries will
Saturday morning will be devoted to gathering information, summarizing
the discussions, and drafting the report. The Workshop will end at noon
THE TWO SUB-THEMES OF THE WORKSHOP
1. The Global Challenge.
Will the emerging global economy and knowledge-based industries demand
new and different mathematical skills of our graduates? What are other
school systems doing in mathematics education? Why do students in certain
countries perform much better than Canadian students on international
standardized tests? How can we motivate more students (including female)
to enrol in the challenging high school mathematics courses which lead
to high-tech careers? These questions will be addressed from the following
Examine Curricula Elsewhere: The Western Consortium,
Atlantic Canada, NCTM standards, Europe and the Far East. Compare
curriculum objectives, teaching methods and university entrance
requirements. What is the feasibility of a pan-Canadian mathematics
The View from Industry: What kinds of mathematics
will be needed in the 21st century workplace, that are not now being
emphasized? What topics now taught will become obsolete? Is the
present mathematics curriculum relevant to "real-world" problem
solving; for example, does it prepare students for the interdisciplinary
problems increasingly faced in industry? Can mathematics courses
be made more exciting, to attract more students?
Life-long Learning: Global competition and technological
change will require employees to adapt more quickly than ever before.
What are the skills which will enable students to continue learning
long after graduation?
2. The Technological Challenge.
Will new technologies change WHAT and HOW we teach? Computers, for
example, have dramatically changed how mathematics is used in the workplace;
how should this be reflected in the classroom? Will they shift the balance
in emphasis between conceptual understanding and manipulative skills?
Are there inherit dangers in these seductive new technologies? New technologies
which will be considered include:
The World Wide Web: Provides virtually unlimited
access to information for exploration by students, and in-service
professional development for teachers.
Multimedia Computer-Guided learning: Self-paced
interactive CD-ROM modules, "edutainment", new resources, new approaches
to both remedial learning and challenges for the gifted students.
Computer Algebra and Geometry Software: Maple,
CAD, Geometer's Sketchpad, graphing calculators, spreadsheets, Statistical
packages, etc., in the classroom and in the workplace. Do they make
obsolete the need for traditional manipulative skills? Do they create
new opportunities for deeper understanding and problem-solving skills?