Report on what happened at ICME-10 in Copenhagen & Reflections on the
Congress (Steve Krevitsky, Middlesex Community College, Middletown, CT).
Member of Discussion Group (DG) 21 on two year colleges and other tertiary
institutions, and Topic Study Group (TSG) 20 on mathematical modeling and
This was my fourth 4th ICME, having been to previous ICME’s in Budapest (1988),
Seville (1996) and Tokyo (2000). I am thus a veteran of these congresses, and I
was pleased to be a travel grant recipient once again.
As always, it was nice to meet fellow Mathematics Educators from all over the
world, exchange ideas and experiences, make new friends, and renew old
acquaintances. This is always a positive. Also, I hadn’t been in Scandinavia in
15 years, so it was nice to return to that part of the world.
I feel that I got the most out of DG 21, on Two-Year Colleges and other Tertiary
Institutions. Many of the same people whom I saw at this same session in Japan
returned, which helped in terms of the continuity of the group. The newcomers
added quite well to this group. WeThus, we thus didn’t have to redo entirely
what we did in 2000, because
we had a useful summary and were. We were thus able to concentrate more on
common issues and problems. One of the main foci of this was the difficult
transitionies that students coming out of High School face in entering college.
We called this the “transition phase,” and quite a bit of our discussions
focused on this issue, including some of the papers that which were presented,
in effect, by distribution. This seemed to be a universal problem for students,
including the notion that there is a major shift in the
thinking level required, as students advance from high school to college, as we
expect more out of them at the two-year college level.
Another issue that surfaced at this session, as well as elsewhere in the
conference, was the need to make math more relevant to our students lives, and
tie math to social issues, among other things.
Yet another key issue was getting institutional support for making needed
changes, and dealing with other obstacles that we face. Faculty workload is
always important. We also need to address. Another common the issue was of
adults in transition, which is a big concern issue for us in the community
colleges. Also, finding out more about students’ learning styles, dealing with
cultural differences, and other related issues, emerged as well. The notion of
problem-based activities, developing more contexts for mathematics, mathematics
and citizenship, were yet other topics for discussion.
There was also discussion about faculty development and other related issues,
such as the usage of the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges
(AMATYC) Crossroads document. This is currently under revision, and is providing
two-year college math faculty with some needed directions related to changes in
curriculum, pedagogy, and so forth. I was able to present my paper on Math and
Baseball, which is my specialty. This is a way to make math more relevant to
students by showing them how many formulas in baseball, such as Batting Average,
Slugging Average, and Earned Run Average, have definite mathematics connections.
help us justify why mathematics is useful. We need math.
We also talked about the attacks on formal math, and the gap between math and
statistics. We heard from math educators from other countries, such as Malaysia,
Indonesia and Japan, regarding issues and concerns that they have. The Japanese
presenter showed us, via the TI-83+ graphing calculator, how our voices could be
visually viewed, using Fourier analysis. This was rather unique, and more such
applications of appropriate uses of technology would be great for lower level
In the last session of this Discussion group, we tried to focus on where do we
go from here. We resummarized what we ha’d already covered, and came up with
such ideas as: having a Discussion Group 21 website, making sure we keep up the
dialogue between this and the next Congress, focus on a few very specific topics
at the next Congress, and work to implement some things that people suggested
here, such as: having more Learning Labs for students, creating more of a
community of students, dealing with diverse learning styles, and maybe doing
more regarding orientation and advising (not all countries do this). Hopefully,
more good ideas will emerge as we keep this dialogue going!
I had mixed feelings about my Topic Study Group, #20 on Modeling. The session
organizers summarized the papers, which I didn’t always like. Although they
some good questions, I would rather hear from the presenters themselves
(although authors did have a chance to respond to the audience’s questions). My
paper, on a probability study of the US National Collegiate Athletic Association
(NCAA) basketball championship tournament, stirred up some controversy. While I
think that people liked the idea, as a way to motivate students, a few
questioned how these relative frequencies translated into probabilities. I
answered these questions, and got good support from others at the session.
Other papers touched upon a variety of mathematics applications from physics and
other arenas. One intriguing paper touched upon how math might have prevented
the collapse of one of the fishing trades. Some of the good comments that were
made noted how real world data are more meaningful to students, and that
mathematics and citizenship were linked, so that students could investigate
social issues and thus be more active (these themes of math and social issues
came up several times at ICME). The
paper on mathematical literacy caught my attention, as this is a big issue in
our currently a focus in the community colleges system, as well as nationally in
general. The issue of how to introduce modeling also came up for discussion. All
of this was summarized in a Question and Answer format on the last day of this
TSG. Included in this were comments on barriers to teaching modeling , and
suggestions were made as to how to overcome these, such as: introducing it
gradually, dealing with the risk and newness of it, dealing with the teaching
culture, curriculum issues, and so forth. There was a sense that students can do
modeling tasks and this! There was also a strong ending consensus that modeling
should be related to the “real world.”
While I wasn’t sure that I really belonged in this session, I hope I can make
use of the ideas back home (which will be easier for me to do from the
It was good to also meet up with fellow travel grantees, and see what they were
doing. The newcomers probably had more things to adjust to than I did as a
veteran, but I did get to see who was there; it was a good, diverse group.
I did also like what I could see of the poster presentations, the Mathematical
Circus, and other aspects of the conference. I collect mathematics books from
other countries, so the Russian national display was good for me in this regard.
I enjoyed the chance to see Copenhagen as time allowed, and the excursion was
also good. My group went to see the white cliffs of Mons, which is in southeast
Denmark, right on the Baltic Sea. We walked up and down several hundred stairs,
got to walk on the beach, pick up shells and fossils, and it was quite pleasant.
This is also a good way to get to know other congress participants!
Some comments are in order regarding the atmosphere of the congress. While it
was large, with over 2,000 attendees, I did think that people were generally
friendly. As mentioned above, this situation might not have been easy for the
newcomers, but I felt that I was able to blend in well. On the first night, at
the University of Copenhagen, which was near my hotel, I met some nice people
from Malaysia, and they invited me to a conference that they will have in 2007.
I appreciated getting the transport pass from the congress organizers, as this
really helped in dealing with what at first was a confusing bus situation at
Lyngby Station, the S-tog stop north of the city center. The campus was large
and confusing at first, but we got used to it, and it was very helpful to be
able to check e- mail and keep up with things. Having lunch right there was also
good, although other alternatives to the box lunches might have been a better
Over the week, I met other nice people from Cuba, Venezuela, Korea, many
European countries, Egypt, South Africa, and so forth. I feel that this is a
very important part of these congresses. I definitely recognized some familiar
faces from past congresses!
It also helped to get the mailings sent out to travel grantees, so that we knew
what to expect, and I tried to help out the newcomers as best as I could.
I intend to disseminate what happened here in a variety of ways, be it through
AMATYC and our affiliates, NCTM, writing for newsletters, and doing
presentations., and so forth. I’m glad I went, and I look forward to the next
one in Mexico in 2008.