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Twilight Masterclass: What is mathematical ability?

Held on the 27th Jun 2022

at 4:30pm to

, North-West Tasmania

Add to Calendar 2022-06-27 16:30:00 2022-06-27 18:00:00 Australia/Sydney Twilight Masterclass: What is mathematical ability? What is mathematical ability and, while everyone has it, why do so many people think they don't? Cradle Coast Campus, Burnie
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Cradle Coast Campus, Burnie


What is mathematical ability and, while everyone has it, why do so many people think they don't?

This session will explore the question "What is mathematical ability?" with views from popular culture (arts and media), neuroscience and studies with respect to access and inclusivity in Mathematics Education. We will do so in three parts.

Part 1 will examine narratives about mathematical ability (and mathematicians!) that dominate in the media, arts and popular culture. We will focus on examples from film and note how these narratives have been shifting from stereotypically exclusive and elitist (e.g. A Beautiful Mind) to more inclusive (e.g. Hidden Figures) portrayals of mathematics and mathematicians.

Part 2 will challenge the disproportionate narrative in popular culture that mathematical ability is a gift for the very few. We will ask whether mathematical ability is naturally human, and we will examine recent research findings from neuroscience about who is – and crucially who is perceived as not – able to do mathematics.

Part 3 will challenge the ableism* narrative about disability as deficit in mathematics. We will ask: does a physical impairment, for example in sight or hearing, imply lesser mathematical ability? Following a brief introduction of the CAPTeaM study (Challenging Ableist Perspectives on the Teaching of Mathematics) at UEA, we will discuss a vignette** from one mathematics classroom which features a blind student's response to a mathematical problem. We will consider and evaluate the student's response and explore alternative ways of communicating mathematically adjusted to the multiple modes of sensory access that students may have in the classroom. In doing so, we will reflect on the added value and mutual benefits – mathematical, affective and social – for all, that reaching out to these alternative ways can generate.

During the session, we will encourage participants to share their own stories, and ask questions about the three aspects we are focusing on.

The session will be suitable for members of the community, teachers, student-teachers, undergraduate / post-graduate students, doctoral candidates and researchers. Come and join us for some interesting conversations and grab a beverage and some nibbles in a relaxed environment.

Registrations are essential for catering and COVID compliance.

The Panel

Elena Nardi is Professor of Mathematics Education at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, UK. She leads the Research in Mathematics Education (RME) Group and the MA Mathematics Education programme at UEA.

Irene Biza is Associate Professor of Mathematics Education and leads the School of Education's doctoral programme also at UEA.

Irene and Elena lead the MathTASK research and development programme. They also teach Mathematics Education courses in the School of Education and School of Mathematics at UEA.

They are visiting Tasmania as invited guests of the UTAS School of Education, and Elena is a keynote speaker at the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia Conference, in Launceston from 3-7 July.

* Ableism: prejudiced narratives about what constitutes a whole and normal human body and about how a physical or mental impairment directly implies deficit in ability (e.g. in mathematics).
** The mathematical problem, the classroom vignette and the questions that follow are known as a "mathtask", an activity of the MathTASK programme.