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"Functional" mathematics in an electronic age – what should we teach?

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Rory Spence Lecture Theatre

School of Architecture & Design

University of Tasmania, Inveresk campus

Launceston, Tas 7250

Australia

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"Functional" mathematics in an electronic age – what should we teach?

presented by

Dr Rhonda Faragher

Senior Lecturer in Inclusive Education at The University of Queensland

At some stage in curriculum planning for learners who struggle with mathematics, the conversation usually turns to a discussion of ‘functional mathematics’ with the view to what the student will need in the future. This ‘functional’ mathematics has tended to focus on basic arithmetic (often using written methods or rote learning of number facts), money (particularly tending currency and calculating change), and time. Perhaps these aspects were important for numerate adult citizenship in the past but what is ‘functional mathematics’ in our present age? How do we determine what and how mathematics should be taught in this electronic age where the tools of mathematics are so readily available?

This presentation considers the nature of numeracy in light of much recent research in the field and melds it with improved understanding of approaches to inclusive mathematics education for students with mathematics learning difficulties. The traditional functional mathematics topics need to be viewed in this new light. For example, calculating change is no longer functional in a world where electronic transactions are commonplace. Other aspects of financial literacy, such as making sound financial decisions, have increased importance.

A numerate adulthood is attainable by all learners, with a realistic understanding of functional mathematics in an electronic age. An essential foundation is a rich mathematics curriculum including topics from across the discipline. Even more so are those mathematical dispositions of grappling with problems, persisting, exploring, being challenged, even seeing the beauty of mathematics. Those of us who have chosen to work in mathematics know the sheer joy, even the beauty, of our discipline. Of course, we also know all too well that for many students, they do not experience mathematics the way we do. However, it is possible for all learners to come to appreciate mathematics in this way with good teaching and the right support. This is best achieved by teaching all learners the year level curriculum in inclusive classrooms. This presentation will give examples of practice of highly accomplished inclusive mathematics teachers from primary and secondary year levels to demonstrate how this might be achieved.

About the speaker

Photo of Rhonda FaragherRhonda Faragher is a Senior Lecturer in Inclusive Education at The University of Queensland and the Director of the Down Syndrome Research Program. With a background in secondary mathematics teaching, Dr Faragher developed her interest in supporting students with learning difficulties to a focus on Down syndrome following the birth of her daughter in 1996.

She has undertaken research in mathematics education across the lifespan working closely with practitioners to develop practical strategies for learning mathematics. She chairs the Down Syndrome Special Interest Research Group of IASSIDD, the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disability, and is a board member of the IASSIDD Academy, a trustee of Down Syndrome International and a board member of Down Syndrome Australia. She is a national councillor of AAMT. Dr Faragher has received a number of awards for her work including the 2016 ACU Vice-Chancellor’s Medal for Staff Excellence.

Refreshments from 5.30pm

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Rory Spence Lecture Theatre

School of Architecture & Design

University of Tasmania, Inveresk campus

Launceston, Tas 7250

Australia

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