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Critical Issues in Mathematics Education (an MSRI Workshop Series)

This series of workshops addresses key problems in education today. They are designed to engage mathematicians, mathematics education researchers, and K-12 teachers as participants. They provide opportunities for participants to:
  • learn about research and development efforts that can enhance their own work and about the contributions they can make to solving the problems of mathematics education;
  • develop ideas about methods for working on these problems and the nature of evidence used to evaluate different kinds of claims for programs related to the problems;
  • share their own work related to these problems––-e.g., course development, research, teaching, and assessment; and
  • make connections with others concerned with these issues who work in related environments.

Most workshops are held at MSRI and last for several densely scheduled days. Activities include plenary sessions, small group work sessions, working groups, and social time for informal conversation. Approximately 200 people drawn from the communities listed above participate in each workshop. To ensure diversity and relevant expertise, workshop organizers invite participants and also advertise the workshops. They also make an effort to engage those who have worked on different aspects of the problems and in different institutional settings. Special attention is given to inviting mathematicians from a diversity of colleges and universities.

The eleventh workshop in this series will be held at MSRI March 26 - 28, 2014 and will address the topic "The roles of mathematics departments and mathematicians in the mathematical preparation of teachers."

The first ten workshops in this series were:
  1. Assessing Students’ Mathematics Learning: Issues, Costs and Benefits
    March 7-10, 2004, at MSRI

  2. The Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching (K-8): Why, What and How?
    May 25-28, 2005, at Asilomar, CA

  3. Raising the floor: Progress and setbacks in the struggle for quality mathematics education for all
    May 7-10, 2006, at MSRI

  4. Critical Issues in Education: Teaching Teachers Mathematics
    May 30- June 1, 2007, at MSRI

  5. Critical Issues in Education: Teaching and Learning Algebra
    May 14-16, 2008, at MSRI

  6. Critical Issues in Education: Teaching Undergraduates Mathematics
    May 11-13, 2009, at MSRI

  7. Reasoning and Sense-Making in the Mathematics Curriculum
    June 07, 2010 to June 09, 2010, at MSRI

  8. The Mathematical Education of Teachers
    May 11, 2011 to May 13, 2011, at MSRI

  9. Teacher education in view of the Common Core
    March 21, 2012 to March 23, 2012, at MSRI

  10. Assessment of Mathematical Proficiencies in the Age of the Common Core
    April 3, 2013 to April 5, 2013, at MSRI

Other education related workshops include

To ensure the intellectual quality of these workshops, MSRI has recruited an Educational Advisory Committee (EAC) from among the country’s most distinguished mathematical scientists and educators, taking care to ensure that a broad variety of views is represented. The members of the EAC serve for fixed terms, and, in the recruitment of new members, especial attention is paid to representing the best current thinking on the fundamental problems facing mathematics education. The current membership in the EAC is available at www.msri.org/web/msri/about-msri/governance-directory/-/listpeople/16

No current Critical Issue Events
  1. Critical Issues in Mathematics Education 2015: Developmental Mathematics: For whom? Toward what ends?

    Organizers: Duane Cooper (Morehouse College), Mark Hoover (University of Michigan), LEAD Robert Megginson (University of Michigan), Richard Sgarlotti (Hannahville Indian School), Katherine Stevenson (California State University, Northridge)

    This workshop will address the critical issue of developmental mathematics at two- and four-year colleges and universities and the broader dynamic of mathematics remediation that occurs at all levels. It will engage mathematicians, K-12 teachers, mathematics educators, and administrators in a conversation about the goals of developmental mathematics and the contributions that our different professional communities make to this work. Key questions that will be addressed are:

    1. How do we teach content in ways that acknowledge and leverage each student's prior learning experiences? In particular, how do we take advantage of a student's maturity while refining his or her learning habits where necessary?

    2. How can developmental mathematics instruction move students through mathematics which must be relearned while simultaneously gaining momentum on more advanced mathematics (including the development of mathematical practices needed for meaningful mathematical work)?

    3. What are strategies for supporting the needs of the wide range of students in developmental mathematics programs--those developing mathematical skills for life in general as well as those developing the foundation necessary to proceed towards a STEM major?  How can we successfully address equity issues raised for students from groups underrepresented in STEM fields? How can developmental mathematics instruction blend synchronous and asynchronous instruction to achieve maximal efficiency and impact?

    4. What is the proper balance between addressing the needs of the wide range of students mentioned in the preceding point and keeping instruction and course offerings concise?

    5. What are the characteristics, training, and practices of a successful developmental mathematics teacher?

    6. What support services enhance the success of a developmental mathematics program?

    Updated on Aug 04, 2014 12:58 PM PDT

Past Critical Issues

  1. Critical Issues in Mathematics Education 2014: The role of the mathematics department in the mathematical preparation of teachers

    Organizers: Deborah Ball (University of Michigan), Solomon Friedberg (Boston College), LEAD Jim Lewis (University of Nebraska), Despina Stylianou (City College, CUNY), Peter Trapa (University of Utah), Hung-Hsi Wu (University of California, Berkeley), Darryl Yong (Harvey Mudd College)

    The 2014 CIME workshop will focus on the role played by mathematics departments in preparing future teachers.  As part of this focus, the workshop will consider two broad questions: What mathematics should teachers know, and how should they come to know this mathematics?

    The Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences publication, The Mathematical Education of Teachers II, recommends that, at institutions that prepare teachers, teacher education should be “an important part of a mathematics department’s mission” (p.19). Certainly, at some universities, mathematicians are significantly involved in the mathematical experiences of students who are planning become teachers. But there are many other departments where this is not true. Future mathematics teachers are enrolled in the department’s mathematics classes, but no one is attending to the fact that this is where they are developing mathematical knowledge and (from watching their instructors) ideas about how teach mathematics.  This role – whether deliberate or latent –– is vitally important for the mathematical preparation of beginning teachers.  

    The CIME workshop has three core aims: (A) to acquaint mathematicians with basic facts about teacher education and how teacher education intersects with the math department even when no one is taking special note of the department’s role; (B) to explore a set of key questions and best practices central to taking advantage of the role that mathematics departments do – or could – play in the mathematical preparation of teachers:

    1. What is known about effective mathematical preparation of teachers, including curriculum, instructional approaches, and assessments?  
    2. What supports do mathematicians and mathematics departments need to carry out this important role effectively?  What are examples of successful models and what evidence exists about their effects?  
    3. What are some of the persistent problems or challenges and what are promising examples of addressing these? 

    and (C) to identify possible action steps to provide more collective capacity for math departments to contribute to teachers’ mathematical education.


    Updated on Apr 04, 2014 09:25 AM PDT
  2. Critical Issues in Mathematics Education 2013: Assessment of Mathematical Proficiencies in the Age of the Common Core

    Organizers: Mark Thames* (University of Michigan), Kristin Umland* (University of New Mexico), Noah Heller (Math for America) and Alan Schoenfeld (University of California, Berkeley)

    This workshop will explore the fundamental problems of trying to assess students' mathematical proficiency, seeking to take a more comprehensive perspective on what it is to learn, know, and use mathematics. The advent of the Common Core State Standards both increases the demand and broadens the conception of what it is to be mathematically skillful, and opens new opportunities and challenges to improving our ability to assess what students understand and can do.

    Updated on Sep 09, 2013 09:31 PM PDT
  3. Critical Issues in Mathematics Education 2012: Teacher education in view of the Common Core

    Organizers: Dave Auckly, Hyman Bass, Amy Cohen-Corwin, and William McCallum

    The wide adoption of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM) offers a helpful curricular coherence to the environment of teacher education. And so the CCSSM present both an opportunity and a challenge to teacher education. An opportunity because of the greater focus made possible. A challenge because not only of the ambitious level of the CCSSM, but also of the prominent role in them of Mathematical Practices. While most mathematicians will find these congenial, much needs to be done to make them meaningfully understood by teachers and teacher educators, and, still more, how to enact them as an organic aspect of instruction. The CIME workshop aims to gather and stimulate ideas for how to meet this opportunity and challenge.

    Updated on Sep 09, 2013 09:32 PM PDT
  4. Critical Issues in Mathematics Education 2011: Mathematical Education of Teachers

    Organizers: Dave Auckly, Sybilla Beckmann (chair), Jim Lewis and William McCallum

    This workshop will showcase materials and successful teacher education programs, examine the Common Core State Standards and its implications, and explore how mathematics education research can improve practice.

    Updated on Sep 09, 2013 09:32 PM PDT
  5. Critical Issues in Mathematics Education 2010: Reasoning and Sense-Making in the Math Curriculum

    Organizers: Dave Auckly, Scott Baldridge, Deborah Loewenberg Ball, Aaron Bertram, Wade Ellis, Deborah Hughes Hallett, Gary Martin, and William McCallum (Chair)

    The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has just released a new document, Focus in High School Mathematics: Reasoning and Sense-Making. The Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governor’s Association have initiated a state led effort to produce Common Core State Standards, which they hope will move states toward national curricular coherence. The national scene is being transformed through stimulus money aimed at having states adopt common standards. This is a significant time for mathematicians to weigh in for coherence and a focus on thinking, understanding and sense-making. For this reason MSRI will host the seventh Critical Issues in Mathematics Education Workshop on this topic. Themes of the workshop will include international comparisons, the role of a coherent national curriculum in the teaching of mathematics, and the ways in which technology can be used to support reasoning and sense-making.

    Updated on Sep 11, 2013 05:30 PM PDT
  6. Critical Issues in Mathematics Education 2009: Teaching Undergraduates Mathematics

    Organizers: William McCallum (The University of Arizona), Deborah Loewenberg Ball (University of Michigan), Rikki Blair (Lakeland Comminity College, Ohio), David Bressoud (Macalester College), Amy Cohen-Corwin (Rutgers University), Don Goldberg (El Camino College), Jim Lewis (University of Nebraska), Robert Megginson (University of Michigan), Bob Moses (The Algebra Project), James Donaldson (Howard University),

    Teaching Undergraduates Mathematics will be the sixth in a series of Critical Issues in Education workshops hosted by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) in Berkeley, CA. Whereas previous workshops focused on K-12 education and teacher education, this workshop will focus on undergraduate education.

    Updated on Oct 07, 2014 03:37 PM PDT
  7. Critical Issues in Mathematics Education 2008: Teaching and Learning Algebra

    Organizers: Al Cuoco, chair, (Center for Mathematics Education), Deborah Ball, ex officio (University of Michigan), Hyman Bass (University of Michigan), Herb Clemens (Ohio State University), James Fey (University of Maryland), Megan Franke (UCLA), Roger Howe (Yale University), Alan Schoenfeld (UC Berkeley), and Ed Silver (University of Michigan).

    For over two decades, the teaching and learning of algebra has been a focus of mathematics education at the precollege level. This workshop will examine issues in algebra education at two critical points in the continuum from elementary school to undergraduate studies: at the transitions from arithmetic to algebra and from high school to university. In addition, the workshop will involve participants in discussions about various ways to structure an algebra curriculum across the entire K-12 curriculum.

    Updated on Oct 09, 2014 05:07 PM PDT
  8. Critical Issues in Mathematics Education 2007: Teaching Teachers Mathematics

    Organizers: Deborah Ball (Center for Proficiency in Education and the University of Michigan), Sybilla Beckmann (University of Georgia), Jim Lewis (University of Nebraska) Chair, Ruth Heaton (University of Nebraska), James Hiebert (University of Delaware), William McCallum (University of Arizona) and William Yslas Velez (University of Arizona).

    Building on the issues investigated in these previous workshops, this workshop will focus concretely on courses, programs and materials that aim to increase teachers’ mathematical knowledge for teaching. Both courses and programs that lead to initial certification and professional development of current teachers will be examined at the workshop. In addition, the workshop will examine efforts by colleges, universities, school districts, professional organizations and funding agencies to support people who teach these courses or lead these workshops.

    Updated on Oct 07, 2014 03:48 PM PDT