Title of Project: "Math Kafé" - Connecting mathematics educators across Canada

Year of Competition: 2019

Grant amount: $1,250

Project Duration: Single Year

Type of Report: Final

Period Covered: Fall term 2019

Description of Activity:
We organized two events, named "Math Kafé," at which university faculty met to discuss teaching first year courses in mathematics and statistics, guided by the content of the First Year Mathematics Repository (http://firstyearmath.ca/). The Repository holds data about mathematics and statistics courses and provides information about how universities across Canada plan and teach their courses, what they teach, and how they assess students. Following our discussions, participants are expected to work on the Repository to keep it up to date, to support its growth and to increase awareness of its content.

(1) Math Kafé at the Fields Institute on Toronto, Ontario (30 November 2019) – Eleven participants from University of Waterloo, University of Toronto (Mississauga and Scarborough), Queens’ University and McMaster University met for a bit over three hours to de-brief about their teaching in the Fall term, in particular about innovations they introduced into their courses, both in terms of curriculum and instruction (as these are the items that our Repository needs to be updated with). Common to all universities is a significant increase in the student numbers, which (in many cases) results in a large strain on the teaching resources. As well, more and more level 1 programs are thinking about introducing a programming component.

(2) Math Kafé at the University of Fraser Valley, B.C. (2 December 2019) Abbotsford, BC - Ten faculty attended and engaged in a lively discussion on the topic of teaching first-year math courses: What is common, what is different, and what are the driving forces behind the current situation? In particular the participants reflected on the "three perspectives": Horizontal perspective - comparison of goals and practices at different universities; Vertical perspective - comparison of goals and practices at the high school and university levels; Cross-cutting perspective – examination of the roles that first-year math courses play in various academic programs. The second part of the event was spent on the introduction and demonstration of the First-year Mathematics and Statistics Repository. The moderator described the goals of the Repository and demonstrated some of its basic functions. The Kafe participants showed a keen interest in the repository and offered to, in the near future, enter the math and stats courses in the repository database.

Assessment of Effectiveness:
The Repository (http://firstyearmath.ca/) and the meetings related to it are major supporters of ongoing national dialogues about teaching first year mathematics at Canadian universities. This shareable and dynamic database contains extensive data about 363 mathematics and statistics courses offered at 29 Canadian universities. Unlike most mathematics education conferences, Math Kafés focus on teaching practice.

One of the key aspects that the Repository content has revealed is that oftentimes mathematics instructors, not being aware of what is done at other places, tackle their problems in isolation, resulting in the loss of time and duplication of effort. Math Kafés address this issue at three levels. First, Math Kafé participants have the opportunity to search data already contained in the Repository and to analyze and discuss their findings with their colleagues in a friendly and supportive environment. Secondly, each participant is expected to contribute to the Repository by entering the relevant data from their own institution, or modifying what is already there. The third level are all rich discussions and exchanges of experiences about teaching our level 1 courses.

As educators, it is our responsibility to ensure that we are providing learning environments to our students that are modern, relevant, and engaging. By keeping lines of communication open, instructors across the country learn from one another and encourages collaborations, with the goal of making sure that the younger generations of mathematics instructors are ready to face the challenges placed in front of them.

Although there was no formal financial support other than from the CMS, the Fields Institute provided their meeting spaces in-kind, and offered something extra, such as free coffee or refreshments (thus lowering the cost of food). As well, University of Fraser Valley provided the space in-kind.

Future Plans (if any):
We plan to organize further Math Kafe events in 2020, for instance in May at the University of Toronto in Mississauga (the date, in late May, to be announced).

That will be a larger event, connected with our Teaching First-Year Mathematics Across Canada event. This will guarantee a diversity of participants from all over Canada.

In particular, our aim is to reach out to smaller universities and departments, as these are not often included in discussions on teaching mathematics and statistics.

There was no other funding for these events.


Fields Institute Kafe $141.36
University of Fraser Valley Kafe $242.13
Repository (database) costs related to the two meetings $150.00
Total expenses (so far) $533.49

Unused funds will be used for further Kafe meetings, the next one planned for University of Toronto Mississauga, on one of the days 22, 23 or 24 May 2020.

Contact Name: Miroslav Lovric

[December 6, 2019]