# Final Commentary: The Challenge Continues

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Final Commentary: The Challenge Continues This edited volume started off as a practical project of the first editor to fill a self- identified void of not having a singular Canadian text that could be used as a source of relevant literature in teaching future secondary school mathematics teachers. Enter the Canadian Mathematics Education Study Group (CMESG), specifically and perhaps appropriately, a conversation during a meal at the 40th anniversary meeting of CMESG, in Kingston, Ontario, and a much bigger vision was born. By the end of a scenic boat ride, we began collaborating as editors, and the project was greatly expanded, eventually bringing together a collection of Canadian authors who work and research within Canadian secondary classrooms in some capacity. Broader vision and context would be provided by having a contributor who was foundational within the Canadian mathematics education community, begin each section with a preface. The ‘landscape’ reference was purposeful; we wanted to represent our varying culture, geography, and context as broadly as possible. As well as including Indigenous and Francophone perspectives, each section of chapters also included the voice of a current classroom teacher (“A teacher’s view”), in order to provide a practical, grassroots examination of some aspect of the section theme from a practicing teacher’s perspective. In the end, the addition of the international authors who graciously offered to read the pieces and use their own contexts to comment on the works greatly added to the depth of what could be accomplished within this single volume and allowed for us to see the possibilities for connecting our Canadian contexts to those beyond our own borders. Below we detail some final thoughts on how we put the sections together and take a look at how the commentaries in each of the six parts have challenged or supported the writings within each section. The collected volume began with a highly meaningful preface by Edward Doolittle that encompassed a fundamental vision for putting together this collection in the Canadian context. As he noted, “Indigenous culture and issues are founda- tional to Canada; and …continue to be a necessary part of anything Canadian” (Preface, this volume). We were deeply honored by the connections made between © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 641 A. Kajander et al. (eds.), Teaching and Learning Secondary School Mathematics, Advances in Mathematics Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-92390-1

642 Final Commentary: The Challenge Continues the work of the Canadian authors that we had compiled for this volume to this fun- damental part of being Canadian and working in a Canadian school context. Doolittle’s moving preface highlighted how all of the authors did in fact support this context to some degree. In this vein, he also brought the volume to an international audience in his final comments on how these are issues that all peoples face and added, “the question is what we [as Indigenous peoples] have to offer to Canada, and the world” (Doolittle, this volume). It is with this initial overview of connec- tions to Indigeneity that situates all of the sections and chapters under one broader theme and extends the link to secondary school mathematics. We chose to begin the collection of authors’ work with a look at “The changing landscape of teaching and learning mathematics” because we have all been partici- pants and observers in how teaching in secondary schools has changed and contin- ues to change. We were honoured that two Canada Research Chairs (Rina Zazkis and Nathalie Sinclair), as well as mathematician and long-standing mathematics education advocate Walter Whiteley, contributed prefaces to this section. In this first section, we chose to situate the volume in the historical as well as cultural landscape of our context. Beginning the contained chapters with Peter Taylor was an obvious choice because he has been pivotal in how Canadian mathematics education has been shaped over the last four decades, which he describes in his chapter. As a ‘founding father’ of CMESG, an organisation with which all of the various section preface authors have been involved, Peter has forever left a mark on teaching and learning mathematics in Canada. We also wanted to include a strong focus on the Indigenous knowledges that both inform and shape our Canadian classrooms. As a more recent aspect of our context, Canadian schools are beginning to focus on emo- tional well-being and mental health so this was also deemed a necessary aspect of this first section. Kaino’s commentary on this section looked at how the chapters were illustrative of the changing portions of school from his own context and per- spective. As he noted, this section provides a chance to “re-think innovative and better ways of teaching and learning mathematics” (Kaino, Part I commentary, this volume). This need for innovative changes answers the call of many mainstream media headlines that question the effectiveness and status of mathematics education in Canada and many other areas of the world. In the end, Kaino supports the driving vision of today’s classrooms (and this volume): to “provide ways for long-term retention of mathematical knowledge” (Part I commentary, this volume). Part I pro- vided the broad strokes of the challenges facing today’s secondary classrooms in preparing the learners to be mathematics users (and not just learners), and the remaining sections each tackle specific areas relating to classroom teaching. “Shifting to a culture of inclusion,” as introduced by David Pimm, a well-known mathematics educator in Canada, focussed attention on helping all learners to succeed in mathematics classrooms, not just those who would go on to become mathematics educators and mathematicians later in life. Our choices for the chapters examined those who are most at-risk in our classrooms including students who are coming from other parts of the world. Although most of the chapters around at-risk classrooms were Ontario based, we felt the stories were not unique to this part of the country or even the world, and the stories could highlight learners who need the

Final Commentary: The Challenge Continues 643 most support in our classrooms. Through these chapters, we reiterate the fundamental idea that the information included is supportive of the quote by the Expert Panel on Student Success in Ontario (2004) as well as other learning initiatives (e.g., Ontario Ministry of Education 2013): “good for all, necessary for some” (p. 42). Beswick, in her commentary, responds to the chapters by beginning with an overview of some of the difficulties in enacting the ideas in the chapters in this section. The first challenge she brings forward is the complex issue of how a teacher’s beliefs interact (or interfere) with how pedagogy is taken up and implemented in the classroom. This idea is a theme throughout the rest of the book as many of the chapters challenge traditional ideas of what teaching mathematics at the secondary school level is and should be. Part III in the volume, introduced by Elaine Simmt, another well-known Canadian mathematics education researcher, discusses how relationships can be fostered in classroom environments. As stated by Boland and Tranter in Part I, the basis of all teaching experiences is the relationship that is formed with students and the school community. The chapters in this section critically look at different ways relationships can help foster greater student success in academics by focussing on behaviours and other characteristics. Mosvold notes, “The fostering of relationships, then, goes beyond attending to students’ mathematical thinking, and it involves getting to know their histories, the experiences they have made in and outside of school, their cultural background, and everything else that constitutes their identity” (Part III commentary, this volume). His commentary on the section notes that the connections among chapters attend to the different aspects that constitute the identities of secondary students in the classroom. As he notes, two of the chapters specifically focus on relationships within the classroom and student thinking; whereas, the other three focus on the development of the whole person through the relationships. Mosvold ends his commentary with a concern of the tendency to take theories of learning from other fields and then use them to apply to teaching by assuming them as theories of teaching. He turns his focus to how the chapter with the strongest link to teaching is also the one without an explicit theoretical foundation (Newell). The noted chapter is an interesting treatise into looking at teaching as all that a teacher does in an effort to support the learning of students. Mosvold concludes that “more conceptual work needs to be done in studies of mathematics teaching, and conceptualizations of mathematics teaching should strive towards capturing the dynamic interactions between mathematical and pedagogical aspects of the work of teaching” (Part III commentary, this volume). The commentary ends with a discussion about the complex nature of teaching and how this section has shown the need to conceptualize teaching as more than just certifications. Following the more theoretical nature of this section, the edited volume moves into specific pedagogy for teaching mathematics. The part entitled “Enhancing problem-based learning” was meant to serve as a collection of chapters that focus on specific examples of using this type of learning environment in the classroom. All of the work in the section was meant to answer the call of mandates by the Canadian Manifesto (Whiteley and Davis 2003/2016), the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2000), and others, to include

644 Final Commentary: The Challenge Continues more tasks and explorations in the classroom. The focus in the section is on using problems in a way that allows students to explore the mathematics, and not just use routine problems to practice previously known formulas. Tom Kieren, long standing, influential mathematics education scholar, provided the preface. The chapters in this section are illustrative of how the mathematics comes from the “doing,” rather than for students to repetitively use something that a teacher has shown them to do. Leikin and Mason provide two very different commentaries on the chapters from different international perspectives. Leikin takes the viewpoint of looking at the chapters as unified through the concepts presented in a model of characteristics that determine mathematical challenge (Part IV commentary, this volume). Her presented model focusses on the conceptual characteristics of the problem, socio-mathematical norms, instructional setting, and individual characteristics of participants as the four foci, and uses the model as a framework to assess the mathematical challenge of tasks. For her, the chapters in this section present ideas that can be summarized through this model and notes that each of the chapters shows the authors sharing their “authentic experiences” in using problem solving methods in the classroom (Leikin, Part IV commentary, this volume). Mason frames the chapters in this section through the lens of “doing” mathematics in a way that is more than just an execution of mathematical procedures. As he notes, the unifying theme in the section is that the authors “are trying to make a difference, trying to get students engaged with mathematics and involved in mathematical thinking” (Mason, Part IV commentary, this volume). Through his discussion of the history of mathematical problem solving, Mason notes that these chapters differ from the idea that teaching mathematics “is assumed to be about training student behaviour so that learners can carry out operations on numbers” (Part IV commentary, this volume). Both Mason and Leikin key into the role of context within many of the chapters in this section of the volume, albeit from different lenses. Leikin focusses on the social justice and citizenship aspects in the chapters, and Mason approaches the ideas from a context standpoint with a goal of reaching for social justice. Mason explicitly links this idea to the concerns raised by Russell (Part IV, this volume) in making sure that the social justice themes do not eclipse the mathematics. Mason concludes by reiterating that the chapters in this section are not meant to “prove” their approaches but rather to serve as a description of how the authors in the chapters have used the techniques in their own experiences. Part V, prefaced by Carolyn Kieran, another very prominent mathematics educa- tion researcher, particularly well known for her work in algebra, provided concrete examples of planning and assessment to bring directly into secondary classrooms. These chapters were intentionally chosen to challenge the ideas that teaching is all about direct transmission of knowledge from teacher to student and that assessment is all about exams and quizzes that “test” how well students have retained what has been shown to them. Reddy and Sriraman both provide commentaries on the chap-

Final Commentary: The Challenge Continues 645 ters in this section through their differing experiences and contexts. Reddy (this volume) provides an interesting commentary on both the commonalities within the six chapters in this section, but also how the ideas relate to the struggles of second- ary teaching in South Africa. He begins with a look at the vast differences between Canada and South Africa in terms of the economic and political struggles of his home country; however, strengthens his position on the importance of education to move the country forward in an effort to alter the glaringly negative headlines that Reddy mentions in his commentary, as well as to improve the future conditions of the students. He points to the difficulties with the Curriculum 2005 (Reddy, Part V commentary, this volume) that highlighted a challenge with the skill set of the teachers who would be implementing the curriculum, a difficulty that is taken for granted as not an issue within the chapters in this section of the book. This com- mentary reminds us of the relative position Canada maintains in providing second- ary teachers with rigorous schooling to prepare them to enact the content in this section on planning and assessment. The “learning outcome” discussion of Reddy in relation to the South African curriculum notes the curriculum revision included “skills and the processes of learning, without sufficient specification of content and knowledge” (Reddy, Part V commentary, this volume) serving as an interesting par- allel with Canadian curriculum as a blend of the two: based on what students should be able to do and know by the end of the school year. Reddy concludes with a dis- cussion of the social inequities facing the South African school system and mounts a challenge: “As Canada becomes more diverse, I would imagine it would be chal- lenged to take into consideration, more significantly, outside classroom contexts to improve the learning for students” (Part V commentary, this volume). This state- ment echoes the underpinning themes within Part II of this volume, so although not specifically addressed in this section, shows a need for Canadian teachers to focus on more than just content when working with students. Sriraman approaches the chapters in this section from a different vantage point: an overarching question of what is actually being measured and notes that the chapters in the section leave concerns over how these ideas can be implemented on a larger scale beyond the single classroom that they seem to address (and in some cases beyond the single cases discussed in the chapter to an entire classroom). His initial commentary pushes back on the chapters as not being supportive of the use of multiple choice questions in testing student understanding. He attests that the chapters imply there is a link between open tasks and conceptual understanding, and multiple-choice questions and procedural understanding. He ends with a commentary on what assessment really is and asks for the reader to question the possible win-loss sce- narios inherent in testing. He calls for assessment to be aligned to learning as well as deep memory in order to create a “win-win” situation for both the student and the teacher. He further extends this to state that memory in mathematics is not simply

646 Final Commentary: The Challenge Continues rote memorization or recitation but something deeper, flexible, and stronger for stu- dents to retrieve, adapt, and use the information in situational experiences. His final comments seem to suggest agreement with the chapters’ push to consider assess- ment (and planning) as not just to prepare for or use multiple choice tests. The final part of this book, “Broadening mathematical understanding through content,” focusses on specific instances of content within the secondary curriculum. The goal in placing these chapters together was to look at example spaces within the secondary classroom that are closely tied to the content students are expected to learn. Gila Hanna, known internationally for her work in many areas particularly around notions of proof in mathematics education research, provides the preface, while Moreira provides the international context to the section through his view on the chapters and their ability to “broaden” mathematical understanding as the section claims. He begins with a separation between the “professional practice of mathematicians” and the “professional practice of mathematics schoolteachers” in order to frame the chapters (Moreira, Part VI commentary, this volume). He does caution that although these are distinct practices and sets of knowledge, they are not opposing, though the knowledge of the mathematicians is not “necessary nor sufficient” for the knowledge needed by schoolteachers (Moreira, Part VI commentary, this volume). He provides an additional challenge to each of the chapters in his description meant to push these understandings of mathematics towards the knowledge of mathematicians and where this adds to or separates from the knowledge of mathematics schoolteachers. He notes that the issues raised by Burazin and Lovric, although based in a Canadian context, parallel international issues connected to his own work. In the end, Moreira comments on the complexities of what teachers must know and do to teach mathematics effectively, which provides an overall statement that reinforces the entirety of the collection of authors in this volume. While not all invitees were able (or willing) to contribute, the breadth and range of contributing voices (totalling 85 individual contributors in all), including many of the founders of CMESG, editors of various mathematics education journals in Canada and from around the world, authors of current curriculum documents, new and experienced classroom teachers, and a breadth of international scholars from five continents, left us deeply humbled. This volume was not meant to serve as an exhaustive collection of all the current issues and challenges facing Canadian secondary school teaching and learning. Rather, it was meant to showcase the variety and range of research and resources to both expand and deepen the conversations around the issues and challenges facing both the research community as well as today’s secondary school teachers of mathematics. The speed with which technology is changing makes it impossible to know precisely how to prepare students for the future, hence developing the ability to think and reason mathematically may be the best possible preparation for students to be ready to face the currently unknown mathematical challenges that are awaiting us all in the coming years.

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