Nurturing mathematical talent an international perspective
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Nurturing Mathematical Talent: An International Perspective. Anca Mustata, Lecturer, School of Mathematical Sciences, University College Cork. Performance of Irish students in international standardized tests (PISA); Percentage of students taking on Higher Maths. Why Project Maths?.

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Nurturing mathematical talent an international perspective

Nurturing Mathematical Talent:An International Perspective

Anca Mustata,

Lecturer, School of Mathematical Sciences,

University College Cork


Why project maths

Performance of Irish students in international standardized tests (PISA);

Percentage of students taking on Higher Maths.

Why Project Maths?

Concerns:

Fundamental assumptions:

Political system

Economic

development

Skilled

workforce

Good policies

Good government

Technological

Innovation

Investment

Geographic factors

Demographic factors

Is there a dominant educational component in economic development?


Facts and figures pisa

Facts and Figures: PISA

  • Developed by

  • Administered to 15 year old students.

  • 6 levels of proficiency: from the everyday to the unusual,

    from the simple to the complex.

  • Measuresgeneral mathematical literacy: An individual’s capacity to identify and understand the role that mathematics plays in the world, to use and engage with mathematics in ways that meet the needs of that individual’s life as a constructive, concerned and reflective citizen.

  • Multiple-choice questions or short written answers.


Nurturing mathematical talent an international perspective

Compare with economic data: ( from the World Economic Forum)

Rank

Country

Singapore

United States

Switzerland

Sweden

Austria

Australia

United Kingdom

Germany

France

Finland

Ireland

Japan

Korea

,

South

Israel

Russia

Bulgaria

Brazil

GNP/capita (2009)

Global competitiveness index (2010-2011)


Nurturing mathematical talent an international perspective

Innovation output: number of patents for invention

per million population

Ireland: relatively good PISA

standing, relatively low

innovation output;

USA innovative, competitive economy, though PISA results quite worrying;

Finland: best PISA results,

well balanced economic

and innovation outputs.

(World economic forum data)


The finnish lesson

The Finnish Lesson

  • Crisis->Reform (early 1990s);

  • Homogeneous society;

  • High degree of personal attention, freedom.

  • Teaching = highly prestigious career;

  • All teachers have earned a Masters degree

    (minimum 5+1/2 years of university education).

Finland's Education Minister:''The Finnish system supports very much those pupils who have learning difficulties but we have to pay more attention also to those pupils who are very talented. Now we have started a pilot project about how to support those pupils who are very gifted in certain areas.''


Nurturing mathematical talent an international perspective

PISA performance at the highest level:

-Finland missed a notch.

-Ireland’s placement static in rapport to previous PISA graph, but the direction of the growth line has been switched!

-USA, Israel results consistently low.


Why the low level of mathematics literacy in the usa

Why the low level of mathematics literacy in the USA?

  • Decades of curriculum change:

    “ One Mile Wide and One Inch Deep”

  • Enhancing students self esteem = dumbing down the curriculum;

  • Teaching not as prestigious a job;

  • Highly diverse, unequal, segregated society - racial/ethnic performance gap;

    Meanwhile…

Talent

import

Meritocracy

cycle

Creativity

Best universities


From facts and figures a suggestion

From facts and figures: a suggestion

Strong correlation:

High performance

+

Rewards

Competitive

economy

Innovation

To check consistency of the claim:

Is there any measurement indicating high performance in mathematics

among secondary school youth in countries like the USA, Israel?


International mathematics olympiads

International Mathematics Olympiads

  • Competition for students below university level.

  • First held in 1959 in Bucharest, a Romanian initiative.

  • The oldest of the 12 International Science Olympiads.

  • Inspired numerous (>25) other international mathematics competitions.

  • Currently: 100 nations, 500 students.

  • Ireland participation since 1988.

Two days x 4 ½ hours = 6 questions, full proofs required.


Nurturing mathematical talent an international perspective

IMO

Country results by year:

Eastern

Europe

BRIC

countries

Small

countries


Mathematical training for irish youth

Mathematical training for Irish youth

Strengths:

  • Irish Mathematics Teachers Association (IMTA).

  • H level / O level: let everyone reach their own potential!

  • Maths Competitions:

    - IMTA Junior Mathematics Competition;

    - IMTA: Pi Quiz is for Junior Cert students;

    - IMTA: Team Math;

    - NUI Galway: PRISM;

    - IrMO

    ∙Mathematics enrichment programmes for 2nd level students

    (volunteer academic staff at U. Limerick, NUI Galway, NUI Maynooth, UCC, UCD)

Misses:

A strong support network for youth with an interest for mathematics, in particular during primary school/Junior cert cycle, offering sustained experience with

-- constructing elaborate arguments and complex strategies;

-- questions requiring lengthy, in-depth exploration;

-- the playful side of mathematics;

-- interaction with like-minded peers.

Musical abilities, athletic abilities are sustained through intense special training, why should mathematical abilities be any different?


Mathematical training in eastern europe and russia

Mathematical training in Eastern Europe and Russia

Support network for youth (12-18 year old):

-motivation

-perseverance

-a sense of community

-adventure

-math skills

-an ethos of giving!

Math

camps

Math

circles

Math

Olympiads

Math

journals

+

+

+

=

National School Town or County National

district or city

IMO

creative

competitive


Mathematics in post communist countries a lost legacy

Mathematics in Post-Communist Countries: a lost legacy?

Lack of internal rewards led to:

Transfer of ideas, structures, and ethos:

Talent transfer to Western countries:

Math camps

IT outsourcing to Eastern Europe

-Academic staff in all major

western universities.

-In Ireland:

UCC Maths - 4 CS -1

TCD Maths - 6

UCD Maths -3


Maths circles

Maths circles

- began over 100 years ago in Eastern Europe, have been flourishing there and in Russia and Asia for generations.

- emphasize exploration and discovery.

- largely regarded as main reason for successes in youth math competitions

- in the United States since 1988, hugely spread today, large www presence

-Informal atmosphere.

-Dedicated teachers for dedicated students.

-Friendship, encouragement and support.


Nurturing mathematical talent an international perspective

We need both!

- weekly, or every other week;

- pair up with 1-2 colleagues, take turns;

- free, or charge;

- junior cert, or leaving cert;

- Google up “math circles” for

problem sets;

- Have fun!

What you can do: Start a math circle!

What we can do:

  • Links to electronic resources from our website:

  • http://euclid.ucc.ie/pages/MATHENR/index.html

  • Teacher workshops: project maths/math circles.

  • Books.

  • Mini electronic journal with monthly contests.

  • Please write to [email protected] if you would like to get started!


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