This weekend was really mathematical for me!
I went to Canadian Mathematical Society Annual Winter Meeting! This year it was held in Niagara falls. We didn’t get to see the falls and the fire alarm nearly chased us out of the conference halls, but overall the trip was incredibly productive and fun. I also met up with friends who I haven’t seen in such a long time!
Here’s what I talked about [aka – my abstract]
“The changing image of mathematics in Soviet textbooks in the 1960’s and 1970’s”
At the end of the 1950’s the Soviet government led by Nikita Khrushchev conducted a major reform of education in order to bridge the gap that then existed between the school curriculum and the practical needs of the state, as well as to prepare students for the workplace upon graduation. The curriculum and academic expectations were about to change for all subjects, including mathematics. Although prominent mathematicians and educators (led by distinguished mathematician Prof. Andrei Kolmogorov) were involved in re-writing the mathematics curriculum, the reform was deemed ineffective by the end of the 1970’s. Counter-reformers criticized the presentation of the material and the extensive emphasis on topics which required a high level of mathematical maturity – such as set theory and a deductive logical approach. They maintained that the failure of the reforms was a result of the reformers’ misconceptions about teaching strategies, a misunderstanding of the requirements of the government and miscommunication with the community of school teachers. However, the reformers themselves held that they had acted in consultation with school teachers and considered their opinions and needs.
In this talk we will explore an important factor that motivated the reformers. They were strongly influenced by changes in research mathematics – such as the growing prevalence of set theory as well as a deductive logical approach to proofs – rather than by the changes in teaching methodologies that the community of educators were calling for. While the latter were primarily interested in practical applications of mathematics, the cohesiveness of the curriculum and the consistency of teaching methods, the reformers focused on modifying the existing curriculum in accordance with the new standards of rigor and abstraction dictated by professional trends in modern mathematics. The image of mathematics was changing and the reformers were attempting to reflect this change in education. We will use excerpts and problems from the Soviet textbooks written in the 1950’s to the 1970’s to illustrate this change.
Here’s what my colleagues talked about in the History and Philosophy of Mathematics Section
and in the Teaching of Mathematics Section
If you happen to speak Russian, see my video about what to take with you to a one-day conference on my Youtube channel