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Sign of the Times: Symposium highlights Latin America's growing mathematics prowess

Published in International

Keynote speaker Angel Ruiz of Costa Rica

Leadership in mathematics education may still be dominated by the United States and Europe, but math researchers, teachers and students in Latin America and the Caribbean are asserting themselves on the global stage. The region is now home to a wealth of journals and organizations for mathematics researchers and educators, and has seen an explosion of virtual communities and information sharing along with a revitalization of math education programs. In 2014, symbolizing this wholesale transformation, 35-year-old Artur Avila of Brazil became Latin America’s first recipient of the prestigious Fields medal for his work in the area of chaos theory.

Such was the backdrop for the Symposium on Math Education in Latin America, which brought the region’s leading lights in the field to TC on Columbus Day. The event, chaired by Bruce Vogeli, Clifford Brewster Upton Professor of Mathematical Education, was TC’s second annual international mathematics education symposium. It also marked the publication of Mathematics and Its Teaching in the Southern Americas, an anthology edited by Vogeli, Héctor Rosario (Ph.D. ’03), and Patrick Scott (Ed.D. ’80) that examines the progress the region has made over the past five decades.

“I felt that there was something to be said by my colleagues in Latin America concerning their successes,” said Vogeli. “This gives them a voice of their own.”

Many of the work’s contributors—from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, México, Panamá, Paraguay, Perú, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela—presented at the symposium alongside TC faculty members Alexander Karp and Henry O. Pollak (honoree at the 2013 symposium).

“Where you have different cultures you have different views of mathematics,” said Brazil’s Ubiratan D’Ambrosio, a pioneer in the field of ethnomathematics who spoke via Skype hook-up to receive TC’s 2014 International Mathematics Education Achievement Award. His views were echoed by Eliana D. Rojas of the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut, who contributed to the anthology her study of Chilean programs, and whose current focus is Latin American students who have immigrated to the United States. “The population of Latino students in the U.S. is growing,” said Rojas, who has been federal funded since 2011 to train a cohort of education professionals to work more successfully with Connecticut’s ELLs (English language learners) in Connecticut, which has the largest math achievement gap in the nation. “In 2011 they were 9.1 percent of the student population. By 2015, one out of five students will be an ELL. We need greater context assessment and evaluation in order to build bridges between Latin American students and their teachers in this country.”

Vogeli believes that understanding the prior math preparation of immigrant students from Latin America can provide important opportunities to foster their inclusion and success in U.S. classrooms. “There are different recipes for long division in different countries,” he says. “If a Guatemalan student demonstrates her method of long division to a U.S. class, it can be a source of learning and cultural pride.”

Others highlighted the benefits of cultural diversity for mathematical thinking in general. In Guatemala, said Claudia María Lara Galo, current President of the Latin-American Committee for Mathematics Education (CLAME), “there are 24 official languages; many of which are Mayan. So there are 24 different ways of solving problems! We Guatemalan educators are creative and flexible; our diversity is an asset, not a problem.”

The region’s political shifts are perhaps the single most significant variable affecting the landscape of math education in Latin America, the participants agreed, with the power to engender, maintain or destroy programs. “When government changes, school initiatives change,” said Vogeli. “Autocratic governments see schools as tools to power. Educated and gifted children are thinking children, and thinking children often become leaders in dissent.”

Vogeli, who has traveled the world to study math education, has experienced the consequences of political change firsthand. In 1982, during an invited speech in Chile, he jokingly made a reference to the Pinochet regime’s takeover of universities, and was taken into custody by the Chilean secret police. It took a call from the U.S. Ambassador to secure his release, and he was subsequently expelled from the country.

In contrast, stability breeds success. Costa Rica, one of the most politically stable societies in the region, is widely viewed as a mathematics leader. It recently unveiled a new mathematics curriculum for primary and secondary schools, the development of which was led by symposium presenter Ángel Ruíz, President of the Inter-American Committee of Mathematics Education (IACME) and Vice President of the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction (ICMI), an organization founded in 1908 by the late mathematician and TC professor David Eugene Smith. The basis for the Costa Rican curricula is a pedagogical strategy called “Problem Solving with Emphasis in Real Contexts,” which proposes lessons organized around building learning through carefully selected problems. It is reinforced through curricular emphasis on promoting positive attitudes and beliefs about mathematics, an intense use of digital technologies and the use of the history of mathematics.

“Collaboration by ‘crossing borders’ is essential to making Latin America more of a player on the international stage,” said former TC faculty member Jeremy Kilpatrick, currently of the University of Georgia. He cited a 2013 workshop in math problem solving, which brought 25 speakers from 15 countries to the University of Chile/Santiago, as a model. The conference was based on work accomplished in a three-year common project of Chile’s CONICYT (National Commission for Scientific and Technical Research) and Finland’s AKA (Academy of Finland).

As the symposium looked toward the future, D’Ambrosio emphasized the global and humanitarian implications of excellence in math education: “We must give good mathematics for the next generation, to create noble hearts and minds. At a time when our natural resources—especially water—are being extinguished, we need to teach students how to put mathematics in service to mankind. We must use our science toward acts of good, to foster respect for one another and for our culture.” —Nanette Maxim

TC Science Alum, Dr. James Mack, Earns Distinguished Teacher Award-Monmouth University

MU Professor Wins the Distinguished Teacher Award
Written by Fabiana Buontempo, Assistant News Editor: Monmouth University
Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Biology professor Dr. James Mack, EdD received the Distinguished Teacher Award on May 14, recognizing him for his teaching excellence and contributions to the University

All professors throughout the University, regardless of their department, are eligible to receive the Distinguished Teacher Award.

Held at the end of the most recent spring semester, former Provost Thomas Peason revealed the award to Mack during a luncheon in Wilson Hall for all University professors.

Mack said "I am both honored and humbled to have received the award." Not only has he been a professor at the University for more than four decades, but he is also an alumi.

Mack stated in his acceptance speech about his journey at the University, "I remember when I was a student at Monmouth; we used Pompeii and Versailles rooms as our cafeteria. During my 45 years as a student and professor, I have been privileged to witness the metamorphosis of Monmouth College to Monmouth University."

Read more here

TC's Christopher Emdin Named "Minorities in Energy" Ambassador by U.S. Energy Department

TC's Christopher Emdin Named "Minorities in Energy" Ambassador by U.S. Energy Department

 Published in TC People


Christopher Emdin

TC's Christopher Emdin has been appointed a "Minorities in Energy Ambassador" by the US Department of Energy (DOE). Emdin, Associate Professor of Science Education, was one of seven new ambassadors and champions inducted on November 19. They joined about 30 senior leaders from industry, government, academia, and nonprofits who are working to increase engagement of minority and tribal communities in the nation's energy sector, with a focus on minority-owned businesses and workers.

Emdin delivered the keynote address for the event and called for a new focus on creating pipelines to careers in science and energy through mentoring and innovative teaching practices.

"I am honored to be named an ambassador with the Minorities in Energy Initiative," he said, "which exemplifies and advances the work I do with public school teachers and students around the country:  To get them interested in and motivated to study science and to envision STEM careers for themselves."

The ambassadors were inducted at the second annual forum for the DOE's "Minorities in Energy Initiative" at Lockheed Martin's Global Vision Center in Arlington, Virginia. At the ceremony, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz said that expanding the participation of minorities in the energy sector, as well as expediting energy efficiency standards and advancing the use of clean technology, are his priorities as secretary.

Though the energy sector has flourished in the past several years, some have expressed continuing concern about the lack of equal access in minority communities to clean energy and about lack of diversity in energy-related fields.

In September 2013, the DOE launched the "Minorities in Energy Initiative" to promote minority engagement and success in three areas:  

  • STEM Education and Workforce Development (where Emdin is active);
  • Energy Economic Development; and
  • Climate Change

Emdin is one of 37 ambassadors working with a newly formed "Industry Partners Network" -- including  Areva, Lockheed Martin, BP America and Shell Oil -- to promote "inclusion, access and engagement by minorities in the energy sector," according to the DOE. The agency also released a strategic plan for the initiative that includes objectives such as "leveraging" ambassadors and partnerships "to elevate the conversation of minority engagement in energy."

According to the strategic plan, "energy is the lifeblood of the country's infrastructure, security, and economy. Access to reliable and affordable energy is a staple of quality of life for families and communities, and an economic opportunity for minority-owned businesses and individuals."

Emdin said he will use the DOE support to promote and expand his work with students and teachers in using youth culture to teach science, and expand his newest initiative, The STEM Genius Academy; which introduces urban youth to careers in STEM, and provides pathways to STEM careers.

The Huffington Post Covers the Columbus Day Mathematics Symposium

The Global Search for Education: What the World Can Learn from Latin America

Posted: 10/12/2014 by C. M. Rubin

"Latino students should feel proud of their mathematical and cultural heritage, and move in unison with their host country as we co-create a culture that values mathematical ideas. That should be the goal of any mathematics education agenda." -- Hector Rosario

How are Brazil and other Latin America countries innovating mathematics education? This year, 35-year-old Brazilian mathematician Artur Avila became the first Latin American to claim the prestigious 2014 Fields Medal (International Medal for Outstanding Discoveries in Mathematics), considered by many to be the mathematician's "Nobel Prize."

The largest percentage of foreign-born residents in the United States come from South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. In 28 states, more than two-thirds of English Learner Language students (ELL) speak Spanish at home.

Math education in Latin America is the subject of an all-day symposium at Teachers College, Columbia University on Monday, October 13. I caught up with some of the featured speakers over the weekend to discuss what the world can learn from Latin America about mathematics education for boys and girls. It's my pleasure to welcome to The Global Search for Education Dr. Hector Rosario (University of Puerto Rico), Dr. Angel Ruiz (University of Costa Rica, President of the Inter-American Committee of Mathematics Education), Dr. Eliana Rojas (Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut), and Dr. Claudia Maria Lara Galo (Universidad Panamericana, Guatemala).

Read more here

Top row (l to r) C. M. Rubin and Hector Rosario

Bottom row (l to r) Claudia Maria Lara Galo, Angel Ruiz, Eliana Rojas

(All Photos are courtesy of Claudia Maria Lara Galo and Hector Rosario)

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Dr. Walker's New Book

Building Mathematics Learning Communities: Improving Outcomes in Urban High Schools


Foreword by BOB MOSES


“This book studies what math students do, how they do it, and what support they need to disengage themselves from our national caste system as it manifests itself through educational inequality.” —From the Foreword by Bob Moses


Building Mathematics Learning Communities is an insightful and informative account of what is required to raise the math performance of students, not only in urban high schools, but in all high schools. Walker provides a blueprint for changing the way urban students should be served in mathematics classrooms and beyond, and offers explicit perspectives and strategies for closing the achievement gap. This is a must-read for the mathematics education community.” —Lee V. Stiff, professor, mathematics education, North Carolina State University; past president, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Erica N. Walker is Associate Professor of Mathematics Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

May 2012/168 pp./Paperback $33.95, ISBN 978-0-8077-5328-6

To order visit us on the web: or call 800-575-6566
Follow us on Twitter @TCPress
For special bulk sales, please contact TC Press at: (212) 678-3919
For exam/desk copy requests go to our website and click on Information Desk

CCTE Program is now on Twitter!

CCTE Program is now on Twitter!

We will be sharing announcements, interesting events and information through the twitter account.

Follow us and share with us interesting information regarding and/or events happening in CCTE community, your classes, TC community and more.

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Science Educator and Professor Christopher Emdin to be Honored by White House

Science Educator and Professor Christopher Emdin to be Honored by White House

Published in TC NewsMakers

TC’s Christopher Emdin, associate professor of Science Education, will be named a “Champion of Change” at a ceremony at the White House Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. Emdin is one of 10 educators who will receive the award for creating opportunities and broadening diversity in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professions. The Champions are being honored for using unconventional approaches to enhance student exposure to STEM subjects.

Emdin uses Hip Hop concepts and rap to teach science to middle- and high-school students throughout New York City. In 2012, Emdin and the Hip Hop artist GZA created the Science GENIUS program in which teams of high school students wrote rap songs incorporating science concepts and entered them in a citywide competition. The songs were judged by a panel of scientists and rap artists for the accuracy of their science content as well as their artistry.

“I am very humbled to accept the award,” Emdin said in an interview. “What is most powerful about it to me is that it shows some recognition of work in STEM education that is outside traditional approaches to teaching and learning.

“Most of all, I am excited to showcase this work in Hip Hop and education, which I truly believe is the future of education in introducing urban youth of color to STEM professions.”

In July 2012, President Obama launched the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans to help support African American students. The initiative is headed by TC alumnus David Johns (M.A. ’06, sociology and education policy), who will bestow the awards at the White House ceremony.

Champions of Change was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals, businesses, and organizations that empower and inspire members of their communities.

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"A Dynamic Mathematics as a Teacher's Tool" - Vladimir Dubrovsky

Fractions, Decimals and The Common Core