Dr. Stat

Dr. Stat is a Statistics Professor. This blog is his opportunity to share ideas and opinions about education (especially math education), politics, and whatever else comes up.

Friday, April 29, 2005

R.L. Moore Conference

I am in Austin, TX, attending "The 8th Annual Legacy of R. L. Moore Conference."

Everyone interested in Math Education should know about the Moore Method, or, as it is sometimes called, the Texas Method.

I first learned of the Moore Method when I was a Secondary Math Education major taking my "transitional" course, which was called Set Theory. We were required to read the autobiography of Halmos, "I want to Be a Mathematician," in which he briefly describes the method.

Some people refer to the Moore Method as the Discovery Method, but it seems to me these should be kept separate. They are similar in philosophy and purpose, I guess, but for me, the Discovery Method applies to Elementary School (maybe Secondary too), while the Moore Method is appropriate for upper level college and graduate studies. The lines are no doubt blurry. I asked some of the presenters questions about the difference or distinction between the methods, which generated some discussion but ended without any clear answers.

Let's see, what did I learn today?

One of the first presenters gave us a problem to work on while he was getting set up. He called it the "McDonald's Problem." Say Chicken McNuggets come in boxes of three and boxes of 20. What is the largest number of nuggets that you can't get?

We heard from Cathy Seeley, President of the NCTM, who talked about how important we are to restoring the glory of American Math Education (my words, not hers) and Rodger Bybee, Executive Director of Biological Science Curriculum Study (an organization going back to the 50's which is apparently responsible for introducting evolution into the curriculum). Bybee gave us a copy of the organization's journal, "The Natural Selection" which has articles about the TIMSS and PISA studies of 2003 (international assessments).

Hyman Bass talked about "Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching." He has been doing research on specific knowledge that teachers in K-12 need to do their jobs--not mathematical content, but profession-specific stuff, like how to analyze wrong answers and quickly recognize what the problem is. Also, he said they have to analyze right answers to see how students are arriving at solutions. Another thing is how to craft questions that reveal what the teacher wants to know about the student. An example was given of arranging 4 decimal numbers in order. Two of the choice could have been done correctly if the student ignored the decimals. Another point was that teachers need to use definitions that "don't lie later." He talked defining even numbers as an example. You might say "A whole number divisible by 2" but what happens when the students get to negative numbers? He has been working on assessment tools to measure teachers' strengths in these types of knowledge. Some of the stuff he said reminded me of what Liping Ma wrote in Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics, and also Hung-Hsi Wu on teacher preparation, but I wondered if he was familiar with these works.

Peter Jipsen talked about using online tools for teaching. He uses "Moodle" which is a free software like WebCT or Blackboard. He has written a couple of java utilities that make it easy to post mathematical equations and graphs in web pages. They are apparently downloadable and are called "ASCIIMath" and "ASCIIsvg." I will be checking these out.

Well, there was more (Moore) but I think that's all I'll say for now.