November 2018: What’s News in Education

Maddeningly delicious geometry, a mathematical gut-check, the moons of moons and more. Mathematics Education Catriona Shearer and Ben Orlin bring us some maddeningly delicious geometry… if you dare! And while I’m at it, check out this set of intriguing shape dissectors from Alex Bellos to puzzle over. Can you cut the shape below into two identical parts using one […]

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Maddeningly delicious geometry, a mathematical gut-check, the moons of moons and more.

Mathematics Education

Catriona Shearer and Ben Orlin bring us some maddeningly delicious geometry… if you dare! And while I’m at it, check out this set of intriguing shape dissectors from Alex Bellos to puzzle over.

Can you cut the shape below into two identical parts using one single line? SOURCE: The Guardian

“Our ability to perceive the exact quantity of small groups of numbers, and to put these numbers together to perceive the quantity of larger groups, is fundamental to our understanding of how numbers partition.” Subitising underlies this. Read on for what subitising is, how it is developed and sort of learning activities help.

What happens when you combine a Tolkien-esque fantasy world with mathematics? The adventures brought to you by Jason Ermer in Arithmetiquities.


What’s going on in this graph? This is one from the NY Times’October selection of graphs to get you thinking and wondering, and bring meaningful graphs to the classroom.

Some more statistics from the UK’s Royal Statistical Society. They have published a series of hands-on activities for developing conceptual understanding with statistics.

From Kalid Azad: the mathematical gutcheck as a quick way of assessing your flexibility.

As a district, schools in San Francisco United have changed their maths program to “challenge students earlier with depth and rigor in middle school”. Their results have turned around. Here’s what they did.

Early Childhood to Tertiary Education

“Why is an economics writer getting so excited about preschools?” reflects Ross Gittins. “Because I can’t think of any other single initiative more likely to benefit us socially and economically.” In this article, Gittins explains why government funding of universal access to preschool is vital and what high quality early childhood education should look like.

SOURCE: Adrian Johnson, NY Times

“[I]nstead of trying to transform a task to match your style, transform your thinking to match the task. The best strategy for a task is the best strategy, irrespective of what you believe your learning style is. … [D]on’t let your purported style be a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure or an excuse for resignation.” — cognitive psychologist, Daniel T. Willingham, on the limitations of identifying with ‘learning styles’

What are the “best ways to find and support great teachers”? In this podcast, Griffith University Dean of Education, Professor Donna Pendergast, Melbourne University Fellow Dr Bronwyn Hinz and Principal at Doveton College, Greg McMahon, discuss the question.

Side note: wouldn’t it be better to talk about great teaching rather than great teachers? Just as we want students to have a growth mindset about their own capabilities, the same should apply for teachers and their craft.

“School libraries represent the best and worst of libraries. The best libraries welcome young minds and relate to those young minds on an individual basis… at the other end of the spectrum you have a cramped, dusty little space with some books where kids poke around.” — children’s author, Morris Gleitzman on the potential of school libraries and why we need to invest more in them.

“Block subjects is a model of teaching students one subject at a time over two to four weeks, rather than several subjects at a time over ten to 13 weeks in a semester.” Victoria University has seen success with student pass rates under this model. However research suggests that the long-term implications of this form of learning may not be as positive.

A Window into Schools & the People in Them

“The Hands on Learning cafe is among 10 Victorian innovations that have caught the attention of Finnish not-for-profit HundrED.” Read more about it and the other innovations here.

A new initiative out of Cobram Primary School called “Every Minute Matters at Cobram” has improved student attendance at school and seen a reduction in chronic absences.

Brett Crawford, the Science Lead Teacher at Warrigal Road State School in Brisbane, has helped every one of the 50 teachers at his school to bring science into the classroom. Dr Scott Sleap, Deputy Principal (STEM) at Cessnock High School Learning in N.S.W., is building partnerships with local industries to help challenge students’ beliefs that modern jobs are not for them. Both teachers have been awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching (Primary and Secondary).

Scott Maxwell (Grant High School, S.A.), Deb Skelton (Caladenia Primary, W.A), Dean Harawira (Nerang State High School, Queensland), and Becky Hall (Royal Children’s Hospital Education Institute, Victoria) are this year’s nominees for the ARIA Music Teacher of the Year award. Meet these teachers here.

The Karratha Education Initiative has celebrated its tenth birthday. The initiative has seen Karratha’s two high schools together with Woodside provide additional academic opportunities for students as well as professional development for teachers.

Education Policy & Politics

Australia is a wealthy nation, yet persistent poverty still exists. The Australian Council of Social Service’s Poverty in Australia 2018 Report shows that 17.3% of all children under the age of 15 (more than one in six) and 13.9% of young people between the ages of 15 and live below the poverty line.

Mission Australia has released its ‘National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth report: youth survey 2017’. In it, Professor Tom Calma writes, “the majority of our young people reported feeling optimistic and confident about their futures, [however] a significant minority were challenged by hopelessness and despair”. What’s needed are solutions “which are culturally safe and co-designed with and delivered by communities.”

Australia rejects less than 10% of applicants into university courses. Yet, only 30% of students graduate within the regular duration of their course — “a sign that not all students have the skills necessary to progress in their studies”. Here’s how Australia compares with other nations, and why an open admissions system doesn’t necessarily lead to greater equity in higher education.

The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership has recently released a report outlining 17 recommendations for strengthening teacher registration across Australia. AITSL deputy chair, Chris Wardlaw, provides some insight.

Television show Q&A held an education special recently. Check out the highlights here from panel members Indigenous education advocate Cindy Berwick, education researcher Jennifer Buckingham, Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg and maths teacher Eddie Woo.

federal review into religious freedom could have implications for education. Under changes to federal anti-discrimination laws recommended by the review, religious schools could be “guaranteed the right to turn away gay students and teachers”.

Instead of ignoring the existence of smartphones, the A.C.T. government is taking a pragmatic approach: “We need to build an understanding with our young people about appropriate use in different contexts rather than simply a blanket ban.” Meanwhile, Google is teaching children how to be safe online. Can we trust it?

In nearly all Queensland universities, pre-service teachers must now sit a Graduate Teacher Performance Assessment. The assessment is designed to see if new teachers “can plan lessons, communicate effectively and measure student learning”.

A small number of schools in Victoria are trialling facial recognition technology as a way of checking who is present in the room. The Education Minister is uncomfortable. Also in the state, from next year, the Victorian Certificate of Education will go online, “giving rural and regional students the freedom to study whatever subject they wish, despite where they live”.

How are Australia’s states and territories faring in education outcomes?

Education Around the World

England: Ofsted, England’s school inspectorate, has announced changes that will see it moving its focus “away from headline data to look instead at how schools are achieving these results, and whether they are offering a curriculum that is broad, rich and deep, or simply teaching to the test.”

Estonia: an insight into the Estonian education system, and what the nation has been doing to show increasing success in science.

Hong KongExperts are calling for university admissions criteria in Hong Kong to be broadened to recognise learning experiences or skills other than just exam scores.

New Zealand: A shortage of secondary teachers is resulting in the New Zealand government looking overseas to find 400 quality teachers.

O.E.C.D.: How is equity in education evolving over time and around the world? This report “identifies the policies and practices that can help disadvantaged students succeed academically and feel more engaged at school.”

SingaporeExam rankings for primary and secondary students in Singapore are being abolished. Students will no longer see their position in relation to their class or cohort, the class and level mean, minimum and maximum marks
and underlining and/or colouring of failing marks, pass/fail for end-of-year result or mean subject grades.

Syria: There are 6.3 million Syrian refugees worldwide, with this number representing the largest national group of refugees. In neighbouring countries, “approximately two-fifths of school-aged Syrian refugee children are out of school”.

Uganda: “about half of female pupils in Uganda will miss one to three days of primary school per month” due to a lack of understanding about menstruation. Christine Apiot Okudi, Director of Academics at Bridge International Academies, is working with the Ugandan government and other organisations to “empower teachers to be one of the main sources of accurate information on sexuality and puberty education”.

The World #1: World Teachers’ Day was recognised in October. Here is some world teacher trivia to mark the day.

The World #2: The Obama Foundation has launched the Global Girls Alliance, marking “a shift in how local grassroots champions of girls’ education interface with the global community, and vice versa”.

Evaluation & Research Practices

The author of a paper published online in May for the journal Gender, Place & Culture “claimed to have spent a year observing canine sexual misconduct in Portland, Ore., parks”. Something was awry. In 2017, the same journal published a paper “analyzing the feminist posthumanist politics of what squirrels eat.” Real or fake? You’ll have to read on.

Maths, Science & Tech

Statistics pioneer, Alison Harcourt, “has helped measure poverty in Australia and played a key role in amending the Electoral Act.” At 88 years-old, she is still making a difference.

Moons can have moons. Are these called: 2moons, moon-squared or moonmoons? Read on.

A scan of Helsinki. SOURCE: Venture Beat

Finnish-based, Umbra, has become the first company to make a 3D model of an entire city truly accessible to people. The city of Helsinki will be digitised “with the possibility of streaming it in real time to web browsers, mobile devices, and AR and VR headsets around the globe”.

What’s better than single-player tetris? Playing the game while wired to two other people. Researchers at the University of Washington have demonstrated a proof-of-concept “that multiple human brains can consciously work together to solve a task that none of the brains individually could”.

An autonomous robot farm, the first of its kind in the United States, is claiming to “grow 30 times more produce than traditional farms”.

SOURCE: Skysource/Skywater Alliance

The Water Abundance XPrize asks designers “to build a device that could extract at least 2,000 liters of water a day from the atmosphere (enough for the daily needs of around 100 people), use clean energy, and cost no more than 2¢ a liter”. The winning device, from the Skysource/Skywater Alliance, “sits inside a shipping container can use clean energy to almost instantly bring clean drinking water anywhere”.

The ethics of tech companies is a topic that continues to come up. This month, employees at Google, Microsoft and Amazon have demanded greater input into the impact and ethical choices around the technology they build.

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