December 2017 Edition: What’s News In Education?

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Reading Time: 6 minutes

Mathematical Feasts, Report Cards & the Twitter Thread of the Year

Maths Education

This list of mathematical headaches is more appetising than it sounds. The document, compiled by Dan Meyer, presents knotty questions and problems designed to compel students and create ‘intellectual need’. Speaking of the mathematically culinary, these geometry snacks from Alex Bellos are something to feast on.

When language and mathematics combine:

This small change to how mathematical formulas and their descriptions are presented, has a massive influence on how easily you interpret them.
study with bilingual speakers has found that the way you think about and solve maths problems, changes when using your mother tongue versus the second language. When problem solving in a second language, there is a greater reliance on visuo-spatial, rather than verbal pathways.

From the NY Times:

  • What do you notice?
  • What do you wonder?
  • What’s going on in these graphs?
Source: The New York Times

Primary, Secondary, Tertiary Education

From a teacher on his decision to go ‘gradeless’, and the implications of assigning numbers:

By its very nature, accountability limits our focus to that which can be counted, ignoring the existence of anything unmeasurable or subjective.
What will it take for us to start thinking of accountability, not as a numerical concern, but as a responsiveness to the students in our care, a reciprocity that cannot be mediated by measurement?

Some STEM ponderings:

  • Can Australia reach its full potential in STEM education? Here are five emerging concerns.
  • There are three models of how industry and school STEM partnerships can be rolled out. The Office of the Chief Scientist and Australian Industry Group are investing in some of these partnerships, and exploring ways to make STEM education more effective for schools.
  • Move over STEM, let’s make it SSTEM. Can you guess the new addition?
  • What value does the label of STEM bring in school education? What does it distract from? (They’re just some bonus questions from me.)

Another month, another set of NAPLAN discussions:

  • The 2017 NAPLAN national report is out. For all your high-level NAPLAN data needs, check it out here.
  • “If the average performance is sufficiently high, why is flat-lining necessarily bad? Why expect a change in the average performance? Why is so much faith placed in a 40 item test of domains as broad as reading or numeracy, or a one-off sample of writing?” John Hattie delves into these questions, and nuances of what NAPLAN results can really tell us.
  • A survey out of the University of Western Australia and Telethon Kids Institute has found that “Australian school students with a mental disorder can be almost three years behind in their studies by the time they sit their final NAPLAN test in year 9”. Read an overview here.

The December elephant in the room is ATAR and the Year 12 results that go with it. Feel free to do your own searches for league tables. They’re not linked to here. Instead:

  1. some words from journalist, Tim Dodd:
    “It is time to say enough, and dramatically recast the way we teach senior high school. This is important… because the learning methods that dominate Year 12 are known to be useless at delivering the outcomes we want.”
  2. interesting trends in enrolment in higher education engineering and health courses in Victoria by gender and domestic/international student status.

Every year, the Commonwealth Department of Education and Training releases cohort analysis data showing the completion rates of higher education students over extended time periods. Here’s the latest.

The 34th International Conference on Innovation, Practice and Research in the Use of Educational Technologies in Tertiary Education was recently held. Here are seven highlights from keynote speaker, James Arvanitakis.

A Window Into Some Schools & The People In Them

Angelina Arora has found a way to turn discarded shellfish into biodegradable plastic. Arora has written 67 pages, detailing her work and maps of the atomic structure of a key protein involved. Oh, and she’s 15.

Well, not a school, but a recent report authored by 19 year-old Cassie Boyle and 16 year-old Brooke Johhnson gives voice to children and teenagers from Alice Springs and the worries they have growing up in the town.

Teacher, Matthew Dunne, on his work with ‘at risk and vulnerable youth’:

It’s very difficult to picture the students who attend this sort of school. Their experience of poverty and trauma makes them invisible to most other Australians. It’s easy to define them by the most shocking dot point list of their life, but that’s reductionist and crude.

Education Policy & Politics

The annual Closing the Gap report has been published. Of the seven targets related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, education and employment outcomes, only one (halving the gap in Year 12 attainment by 2020) is on track to be met. Another report, Family Matters, has revealed that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children “are now nearly 10 times as likely to be removed from their family as non-Indigenous children — a disparity which continues to grow.” Media are calling this the ‘second stolen generation’. New research out of the University of Sydney has found that, under the Northern Territory intervention, “birth weight dropped by 100 grams on average, and that school attendance fell by an average of 4 per cent in dozens of communities”. The Northern Territory Empergency Response was launched by the Federal government over a decade ago.

Approximately 65% of students in Tasmania currently complete Year 12. To turn this around, the state is changing the way high school is structured, with plans for all public high schools to be offering Years 11 and 12 by 2022.

Gonski 2.0: the fight continues. On realising that Commonwealth funds would stop coming in if they did not sign on, S.A. is now on board. Victoria has also reluctantly committed to the deal, but only for one year at this stage. Speaking of education expenditure, the Mitchell Institute is not impressed with the approach that has been taken by successive governments in over a decade. In a new report, they explain: “We see ad hoc, piecemeal spending across the system, suggesting that governments are not looking at Australia’s education system as a whole when deciding reforms.”

Over in W.A.budget cuts are being made to education in 2018. Regional and rural students are likely to be hit the hardest, with the School of the Air closing down, and six camp school sites being shut.

Education Around the World

China (Shanghai): What’s the Chinese education system like from the inside? This interview dives in.
France #1: Compared with 50 years ago, parents around the world are now spending twice as long each day with their children — except in France.
France #2: The French government has imposed a ban on students using mobile phones in schools. Implementation and enforcement of the ban has not yet been decided.
Japan: What is the Japanese lesson study, and how is it used in initial teacher education? Read on.
New Zealand: To address declining levels of educational achievement, the New Zealand Government has announced that from 2018, “reporting will focus on children’s progress, rather than measuring them against arbitrary National Standards.”
O.E.C.D.: In many O.E.C.D. countries, for people born between 1985 and 1988 “the difference in the standardised scores between children with tertiary-educated parents and those without a tertiary-educated parent increases” between the ages of 15 and 25–28. For the data presented below, what do you notice? What do you wonder?

Source: OECD Education and Skills Today

United Nations: Goal 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. Underlying this is a challenge to ensure that quality and comparable data is collected at national levels. A new report describes what countries can do to make this possible.

Evaluation & Research Practices

Education research is complex and not at all static. So how can schools use research to better inform teaching practice? Read on.

Maths, Science & Tech

Greater Data Science: There’s a difference between statistics in practice and statistics in teaching and learning. As this blog explains, the former includes data exploration, data transformation, computing, modelling, visualisation, and science of data science. The latter generally does not.

You thought ‘Chief Visionary’ was an interesting job title? An IT services firm has identified 21 occupations of the future. Amongst my faves: Ethical Sourcing Manager, Master of Edge Computing, Genomic Portfolio Director, and Fitness Commitment Counselor. Eat your heart out.

The case of the ‘cursed curve’: A team of mathematicians has just “identified the rational solutions for [this] famously difficult Diophantine equation”, a culmination of over 40 years of work.

We could all do with more Islamic art in our lives. Meet Engare, “a game of motion and geometry which draws on the mathematical principles of Islamic design”.

Looking for some summer holiday podcast listening? Intrigued by the idea of extraordinary stories from the world of numbers? Sum of All Parts is your one-stop shop.

The 2017 prize for the nerdiest, cutest twitter thread goes to @solvemymaths, who asked “What’s the coolest / rarest mathsy thing you own?” Please enjoy.

From the succinct and witty Ben Orlin, ‘Epitaphs in the Graveyard of Mathematics’:

Source: Math With Bad Drawings
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