Société mathématique du Canada
Société mathématique du Canada
  location:  Communautéfonds de dotationaperçu
Title of Project: Combinatorics Institutes for Secondary Teachers

Year of Competition: 2003

Grant amount: $5000

Project Duration: Single Year

Type of Report: Annual

Period Covered: January 2004 to September 2004

Description of Activity:
The activity has featured two institutes and a workshop for preservice teachers thus far in 2004. In addition, the grant has provided opportunities to develop related professional experiences and publications pertinent to the goals of the CMS and the project. These are articulated further in subsequent sections.

A successful application to run an institute sponsored by the NB Department of Education led us to proceed with a plan for a two day institute in Moncton and another in Truro, later the same week in August. The subsequent provincial cutbacks resulted in the cancellation of the institute in Moncton. Our decision was to revive the event with an open one day institute in Moncton on August 4, 2004. Three of the originally scheduled participants attended and another joined us in Truro for the two day event. In addition, four others attended the event in Moncton when a notice was circulated. The hospitality of Viktor Freiman at University of Moncton provided us with a site at short notice and no cost.

The latter event in Truro on August 5th and 6th was an overwhelming success. The groundwork at the local level by David McKillop and the generosity of the local college in terms of space made for a wonderful atmosphere enjoyed by Richard, John, David and the other 18 teachers from around the province (and one from NB).

Much of the planning for the events took place in February when Richard Hoshino visited Fredericton to offer a workshop for preservice teachers at University of New Brunswick. It is anticipated that the final event under the auspices of the grant will be held in Saint John, NB.

Assessment of Effectiveness:
The project has provided a source for many rich connections on various levels. The experiences of the preservice teachers and the classroom teachers have suggested that they value the opportunities to have experienced problem solving that extends themselves mathematically. The comments of a department head from a Halifax area school reflect the spirit of our experience in Truro:

Thank you for the very rich "math days". Like a good movie where one revisits and enjoys the events and characters the next day, the experience of the last day and half are very much an enjoyable and stimulating mindset that is still with me. I was reminded of a conversation with a former Vice President of a large corporation this summer. His comment was, as we discussed my teaching math, "Math is so easy once you see how it works" The operative word being "see". This is what you, along with Curt were having us do "see how it works". As a High School teacher I, like my colleagues, really appreciate people associated with University Math Departments being involved in the quest to reach and motivate mathematically talented students in High School.

Another experienced teacher writes upon her return to school in September:

I want to pass on my thanks to you for organizing the combinatorics workshops in Truro last month. The exercises and discussions were both interesting and insightful. The energy you both bring to math problems, reflects your love for the subject and for your work. The fact that you are working with student teachers should have a positive influence on math programs in our schools. I enjoyed the two days-they seemed to go by so quickly-and the discussions that took place as math was drawn from the problems. Thank you again, and I hope you have a great year.

It should be mentioned that two UNB Education students, Curt Crane and Leah Bidlake, presented the results of their separate combinatorial investigations at the institutes in Truro and Moncton respectively. These investigations were components of independent studies arranged with John Grant McLoughlin and assisted by Richard Hoshino.

The CMS has received considerable mention through the direct workings of the grant and related initiatives. Richard Hoshino and John Grant McLoughlin have submitted the manuscript of a book entitled "Combinatorial Explorations" to the ATOM series. The writing and the spirit of the book have woven their way through the institutes. Contributions of workshop participants and the CMS Endowment Grant are acknowledged accordingly. Richard Hoshino and John Grant McLoughlin co-organized the Education Session at the recent summer meeting in Halifax. A one day session with local high school teachers focused on the transitional issues between high school and university. Indeed the workshops and other initiatives such as math leagues have fostered the building of bridges. Several participants in Truro and Moncton had previously participated in the shorter workshops held at UNB or Halifax in the preceding year.

Future Plans (if any):
Plans are being made to hold one more event in Saint John. Interest has been expressed from teachers in that area though no events have been held there. Ideally it will be possible to have a full day of professional development dedicated to an institute.

In terms of writing, there are initiatives in place. First, the ATOM book will highlight the mathematical content and spirit of investigation. The resource should be made available to teachers. Second, Richard Hoshino and John Grant McLoughlin will write an article for publication in a journal. Also, a piece for the CMS Education Notes will be prepared. The experience was shared as part of the Education Session in Halifax that focused upon building bridges and the transitional issues. Third, it is anticipated that one of the students will work with Richard and John to prepare an article on mathematical investigation using their own experience as a focal point.

A graduate student has also been hired to assist with the work related to the project. Stephen Landry will assist with the organization of the forthcoming event and other activities related to the winding down of the project. We are mindful that the project is officially winding down as an endowment grant though the challenge is to ensure that the project can move forth at another level within the experiences of teachers in the region.

$2981.02 of the funds have been spent to date; however, an additional $250 has been allocated as the contribution toward the hiring of Stephen Landry. (The remaining funds are covered through the university sponsored work-study program.) Therefore, approximately $1750 remain available for supporting planned activities. The expenses have covered costs associated with travel, accommodation, and meals including food for participants at all events. Honoraria were provided to participants in Moncton due to the circumstances.

It is estimated that the cost of a full day event in Saint John, including travel, will range from $800 to $1500 depending upon the number of participants and the level of support from the regional school district(s) in terms of provisions for travel, food, and a site. Remaining funds may be used to support efforts to bridge the project into future endeavours. Some incidental charges such as phone and copying will be incurred. If possible, a second event may be held in conjunction with another district and/or preservice teacher community. An update of the status of the funds can be provided in future upon request.

Contact Name: John Grant McLoughlin

[September 29, 2004]

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