First National Mathematics Week: Mineduc announces contests and experts pose challenges

First National Mathematics Week: Mineduc announces contests and experts pose challenges

Between April 8 and 13 there will be more than one hundred activities throughout the country, including photography contests, games and mathematical literature.

The Ministry of Education, the Mathematics Society of Chile (Somachi) and the Chilean Society of Mathematics Education (Sochiem), officially launched the First National Mathematics Week, to be held throughout the country between April 8 and 13.

This unprecedented government initiative was announced during the ceremony to commemorate International Mathematics Day held on March 14 at the University of Santiago. There, the Mineduc presented a diagnosis of learning levels in basic and secondary education, detailed the Mathematics Educational Reactivation Plan and urged society to work together to end the gender gap.

“Our priorities are to ensure the right level of learning, anticipate and support learning in the early years of school trajectory, and redouble efforts to reverse the gender gap that since 2016 has been increasing,” said the national coordinator of the Learning Strengthening axis of the Education Revival Plan, Kenichi Haramoto.

Strategy for the Reactivation of Mathematics

During his speech, the Mineduc authority presented some background information on the current scenario, taking the recent Simce test results as a guide. After the average increase of 9 points in 4th grade and 5 points in 2nd grade, Haramoto highlighted that “these are signs of recovery”, although he emphasized that “we have a panorama of improvement, but we are still in a moment where there are important learning needs”.

The report detailed that 76% of students in 4th grade and 82.1% of students in 2nd grade do not reach the adequate level of learning. At the same evaluation levels, the gender gap also increased from 10 to 12 points in elementary school and from 7 to 11 points in middle school, and the gap by learning standard is even more significant: in 4th grade, 80.1% do not reach the adequate level (43.3% in insufficient level), while in 2nd grade, this percentage rises to 84.7% (54% in insufficient).

With these indicators, the national coordinator of the Learning Strengthening axis of the Educational Reactivation Plan, Kenichi Haramoto, focused his analysis on what causes this gender gap. “They are quite cultural and we have, at least, four researches elaborated by different universities. The first thing, we have evidence that socially we associate mathematics more with men than women. Secondly, the interaction time that teachers invest in girls is less than in boys, it is quite shocking because the biases are unconscious and it has repercussions on the entire work they do,” he warned.

“Thirdly, we know that schools where there is lower self-esteem are related to lower scores for women in the Simce, because it affects learning. And finally, the time to study is affected by housework and care, this is a problem of the whole society of how we understand these responsibilities and that begins to mark from the early years of life of women and men, “he added.

Programs and challenges

The Mineduc detailed all the ongoing programs of the strategy: DIA Mathematics Diagnostic Briefcase, Mathematics on the Road, interschool activities for learning mathematics in equality, Mathematics Connected (MatCon) and the program for Training in Didactic-Disciplinary Mathematical Competencies (Suma y Sigue), the latter two projects of the Center for Mathematical Modeling (CMM) of the University of Chile.

In closing, Kenichi Haramoto called on the entire educational community to “accelerate and improve opportunities to develop mathematical learning while safeguarding a holistic approach to learning, and to strengthen initiatives that address the causes of the gender gap in mathematics learning directly”.

Mathematics Week

As part of this plan of the Chilean Ministry of Education, for this 2024 -for the first time in history- considered in the school calendar the National Mathematics Week, established between Monday, April 8 and Saturday, April 13.

“The date was chosen in honor of the legacy of Guacolda Antoine, who was an outstanding mathematics teacher, both in school and university education, since 1928 in Chile. She was the first woman to serve as dean of the former State Technical University (UTE). She was born on April 11, 1908, so this First National Mathematics Week will be celebrated throughout the country from April 8 to 13 thanks to the recognition of this woman”, explained the executive coordinator of the event, Andrea Pinto.

In this line, he explained that “it is the dream of many and is born from the educational reactivation table of the Ministry of Education, composed of the Curriculum and Evaluation Unit, the Center for Improvement, Experimentation and Pedagogical Research (CPEIP), the Undersecretary of Early Childhood Education and the General Education Division (…) Let us continue working together to build a future where mathematics is a powerful tool for personal development and the progress of our society. We call on each of you to join this initiative and help us mobilize an entire country. We ask for your collaboration in spreading the word about this week and in organizing activities in your educational institutions. Every effort counts.

The president of the Chilean Society of Mathematics Education (Sochiem), Soledad Estrella, said that “today we mark the beginning of a celebration that promises to be a great party, full of learning and appreciation of mathematics by citizens, especially children and young people, who will enjoy mathematical activities in playful and challenging environments. Different activities have been coordinated, theater plays, mathematical rallies, visits to universities, mathematical tourism, conferences, practical workshops, mathematical games, among others”.

“Finally we have a moment in the school calendar in which we can dedicate ourselves to mathematics, that week we will make special reference to aspects that we do not have time to do with the necessary emphasis (…) We are one of those blessed people that when we see something in mathematics we see it beautifully, it excites us. We are a worldwide society that loves mathematics and let’s celebrate until Pi runs out of decimals”, said the president of the Mathematics Society of Chile (Somachi), Mario Ponce.

Contests

The National Mathematics Week 2024 considers three contests, especially for educators, parents, students from transition level to 4th grade, adult education students and pedagogy students:

  • Mathematics in 314 words, which consists of writing a story related to mathematics, either about numbers, solving ingenious problems, geometry, patterns, creative algebra, measurement, data and probability, among others.
  • Mathematical lens, which calls for taking pictures that show the presence of applied mathematics in any area of students’ lives.
  • Design of games for learning mathematics. The contestants must design and elaborate a game for previous courses addressing at least one content of the subject (focus on reactivation) from 7th to 4th grade.

The executive coordinator of the National Mathematics Week, Andrea Pinto, elaborated on the different initiatives. “We invite active participation in the national contests and in each of the planned activities, such as the synchronous classes for children and adolescents of the country, the launch of the timeline From mathematics to artificial intelligence developed by the Center for Mathematical Modeling, the visit and participation with hospitalized children, the mathematical theater and the webinars for teachers, directors, parents and guardians, as well as the activation of more than 35 blue boxes from dedica to Punta Arenas”, she said.

Round table

To reflect on the opportunities and challenges of mathematics education, the three organizing institutions invited Michèle Artigue, professor emeritus at Paris Cité University (France) and known worldwide for the creation of didactic engineering; Jaime San Martín, researcher associated with the Center for Mathematical Modeling (CMM) of the University of Chile and 2023 National Prize in Exact Sciences; Lorena Espinoza, director of the Felix Klein Center and deputy director of the Mathematics En Route program; Salomé Martínez, director of Transfer and Innovation and of the CMM Education Laboratory; and Andrea Pizarro, PhD in Didactics of Mathematics and director of Ensemble.

“An important issue is why we study mathematics and how we convince our citizens that studying mathematics is important. The question is difficult and the answer is very complicated. First, we have to convince them that mathematics is part of the culture of humanity, that it is as important as literature, poetry or sports. Second, because it allows us to develop, I don’t know how, our brain, our critical, analytical and reasoning abilities, which are so useful in a society”, said Jaime San Martín.

In this regard, the CMM researcher asserted that “I see the boys and girls in 4th grade, and there are almost no differences, but when you look at the students in 4th grade, there is a very important gap. Why do these gaps occur later on? Why this increase? In the first years of high school, when one exaggerates the formality of mathematics, it is very difficult to reach students, even in hyper-selected students. Therefore, the entry to mathematics has to be smooth, even in first year engineering, with an important motivation why that is useful and step by step. There is a demotion that we university mathematics teachers have not understood.”

“A big challenge, it’s a resource challenge. Singapore regained a lot of its education when teachers were paid what an engineer is paid. When we recognize that being a teacher is fundamental for the development of society and not only the income, which is very important, but also their role and recognition of their role,” he said.

Salomé Martínez said: “I would like to start by acknowledging that in Chile, since the return to democracy in the 1990s, education was put at the center, it was understood that we had to rebuild a country that had terrible conditions, that we had to advance in equality. Academics became very involved, there was a great curricular reform. Afterwards, learning results were a problem that was at the center of the governments’ concerns, but we have a small State, a Ministry of Education that does not have the muscle it has elsewhere. In Chile, the ministry tries to advance on many fronts, a lot, but the technical capacities inside are not what they should be in a country like ours, which has aspirations of development and equality for all its citizens“.

“There is a Chilean society of mathematics education that has been in existence for more than 40 years, which brings together teachers and educators who get together to discuss mathematics education, where ideas are shared with expert researchers who have worked in the classroom. In other words, this is a luxury that does not exist in other areas of knowledge and that gives us the idea of a community around mathematics education, which has its own identity and which is very important to look to the future. We have to move towards taking advantage of these collaborations between universities throughout the country (…) we have achieved a very special synergy to address the problems we have in Chile as a country and it is very important that we can strengthen these collaborations in the long term”, he added.

Martinez also said that “CORFO, for example, has invested heavily in scientific and technological development in Chile. Why are these substantial resources not available for pedagogies? The challenges are enormous, but I believe that Chile has an opportunity to do this (…) The call is for collaboration between the State and the universities. Without knowledge, without maintaining these lines of work, there is no way we can advance in a titanic task on which depends our future as a country, the future of our young people and the opportunity for development, such as the teaching of mathematics in schools“.

Relive the ceremony:

By Alonso Farías Ponce, journalist of the Center for Mathematical Modeling.

Posted on Mar 28, 2024 in News