Educators often treat mathematics as an inherently global subject because of its quanititative and emperical nature, and they teach it with that assumption. In fact, educators in different coutries and cultures approach mathematical processes very differently, and students learn math concepts using a variety of different approaches. Students can experience the world in mathematics classes, despite the common misconception that global perspectives need not be incoporated into the teaching of mathematics.
For example, students can use international data sets for problem solving, or art and architectural designs from various cultures in the study of geometry. As with science, students can learn about the worldwide origins of mathematics and the contributions of many cultures to the development of the modern field. The Mathematics, Science, and Technology Department at Columbia Teachers College offers the course “Teaching Mathematics in Diverse Cultures,” which examines mathematics instruction from a cross-cultural perspective and includes a study tour of schools and institutions in several countries.
David Molina, mathematics consultant formerly with the Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas at Austin, is exploring the essential question: “How should mathematics look in a high school focused on a global environment?” Molina works with mathematics teachers in the Asia Society’s International Studies Schools Network, a national network of over 30 public schools working to develop globally competent high school students. These conversations are leading to the reconsideration of context, content, instructional experiences, and student outcomes for mathematics in internationally themed schools.
For example, if students need to understand phenomena such as growth and decay, spread of disease, and population growth, will they need knowledge of exponential functions sooner than they would in a typical high school mathematics sequence? Or, if students study trends and patterns in large populations, does this imply that some understanding of inferential statistics needs to be an integral part of the high school mathematics sequence?
Molina encourages leaders in colleges of education, together with their colleagues in departments of mathematics, to play a role in answering these questions by:
- facilitating and aiding in the conversation;
- researching the appropriate content, contexts, instructional experiences, and learning outcomes;
- building better understanding of how the disciplines interrelate in a curriculum focused on a global environment
- developing courses in both pedagogy and mathematics that reflect these findings.