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FOCS 2008


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Future of Mathematics Education in Europe

There is substantial evidence that, in developed countries, the interest in mathematics during the pre 18 year old school career has declined sharply in the last 20 years. In these countries, the level of performance in Mathematics of students leaving high school is also subject to a (sometimes harsh) debate. Over the last two decades, this situation has already lead to statements about ways to alleviate these tendencies and initiatives to reform mathematics education.

One line of such reforms has been to shift the attention from the learning of abstract concepts and procedural skills to that of a set of more concrete and problem-solving activities. In accordance with this view, the ultimate goal of student learning is claimed to be the acquisition of a mathematical disposition. However, such reform movements are often contested, especially from the side of the mathematics community itself. The intensity of the debate on mathematics education is not much different in Europe than elsewhere. From one country to the next, it has taken a more or less acrimonial tone, and the level of consensus reached on several of the raised issues is very variable.

At the same time, the range of domains of knowledge and of the economic sector that require a variety of mathematical tools and methodology (including advanced ones) has broadened considerably, notably in connection with the high tech sector.

It is obvious that math learning and teaching in tertiary education is of utmost importance in view of students’ choice of fields of study later on, and of their performance in a wide variety of these fields in which mathematics is of prominent importance.

Therefore, a conference on « The future of mathematics education in Europe » would be a timely initiative that the Academia Europaea could take:

Topics that should be addressed during the conference

  • present situation of mathematics education in Europe (from primary to advanced secondary schools and the beginning of higher education);
  • typical mathematics education reform initiatives;
  • the perception of mathematics and mathematics education by students, parents and society at large;
  • relationships of Mathematics to other subject-matter fields of the curriculum (especially Science and Information Technology);
  • the state-of-the-art in teachers training for mathematics education..

Aims of the Conference

  • To arrive at the outline of an ‹‹ agenda for action ›› for mathematics education if a sufficient consensus can be reached, and at a good list of critical points to be further documented and clarified if this is not the case;
  • To publish the ‹‹ agenda for action ›› (after proper endorsement ) under the Academia Europaea banner;
  • To present the agenda to stakeholders in the education and science policy arena for further development, and, if things go for the best, implementation.

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