The International Seminar of the Institute for Advanced Study's Park City Mathematics Institute

Mathematics Education Around the World: Bridging Policy and Practice

Different traditions and practices in mathematics education across the world offer valuable ways of thinking about what it means to teach and to learn mathematics. In particular, many current practices and research findings can be examined against other countries' norms and policies as well as from the perspective and experience of different cultures, political systems, and economies. These reflections may inform not only individual countries' mathematics education programs but may serve to bring the international community closer to some common understandings.

Since 2001, the International Seminar on Mathematics Education has brought together a small group of international participants, selected for their key roles in policy and practice in mathematics education in their own countries. The primary goal of the Seminar is to establish an ongoing dialogue that examines, in practical and grounded terms, the interplay of policy and practice in diverse systems of primary and secondary mathematics education. Participants in the Seminar design and implement a series of reflections on common problems, along with suggestions for policy and practice and innovative offerings to share with the international community. The set of countries represented in the Seminar changes over time, with continuing attention to diversity and variety in educational challenges.

MISSION: To bring together teams of two educators-a university mathematics educator or policy-maker and a secondary teacher-from a small number of nations representing a cross-section of the regions of the world to discuss major issues in mathematics education policy and practice. The seminar goals are to:

  • promote open discussion of issues affecting the mathematics education policies and practices of each nation,
  • identify common issues faced across national contexts,
  • identify common sources of direction and support for efforts to address problems, and search for common solutions to related problems

International Seminar: Summer 2017

The weeklong International Seminar, "Bridging Policy and Practice in Mathematics Education Around the World" was held as part of the 2017 PCMI Summer Session. The invited team participants consisted of one mathematics education/policy-maker and one practicing secondary mathematics teacher from each of six countries (Czech Republic, Guatemala, Nigeria, Philippines, Spain and the United States). The seminar was organized by Rick Scott, retired from New Mexico State University, and Gail Burrill, Michigan State University. Solomon Friedberg of Boston College participated as a Respondent.

The focus of the 2017 Seminar was on the teaching and learning of probability and implications for the curriculum and for teacher preparation and development. Discussions and presentations related to the general question: What is the status of probability in the K-12 curriculum in your country?

In particular, for each of the following sets of questions, participants from two countries responded:

  • How are prospective teachers prepared for teaching probability in your country? How do probability topics fit into a tertiary mathematics program at the introductory level?
  • Is probability more closely tied to mathematics or to statistics in your country? How are the ideas of chance related to quantitative literacy such as risk involved with medical procedures or the use of lotteries into the school curriculum?
  • What is the current use of technology in classrooms in developing understanding of probabilistic concepts and procedures in your country? What potential future roles do you see for technology in developing understanding of probabilistic concepts and procedures in your country?

Emerging Issues/Central Themes
Major discussion points included the presence of probability in the school curriculum in the participating countries, how it is presented, and why it is an important component of the curriculum.

The participants worked together to establish consensus on various issues that emerged in the course of the discussions and, in working groups, produced three short policy briefs that present their collective views.

2017 Briefs

  • The Importance of Teaching Probability [PDF]
  • Linking Probability and Statistics at the K-12 Level [PDF]
  • Teaching Teachers to Teach Probability [PDF]

The 2017 international seminar was funded by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number DRL-1445101, subcontracted to the Institute for Advanced Study from the United States National Commission on Mathematical Instruction of the National Academy of Sciences. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Past seminars have been funded by the Wolfensohn Family Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, and the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction.

International Seminar: Summer 2016
International Seminar History on the IAS/PCMI site for information from past years.


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IAS/Park City Mathematics Institute is an outreach program of the Institute for Advanced Study, 1 Einstein Drive, Princeton, NJ 08540.
Send questions or comments to: Suzanne Alejandre