Figure 1 – My Proposed Framework |

In this article, I propose a framework for mathematics education that can be used in curriculum (re-)design, lesson design, evaluation of the Singapore , I do hope that at least some of my ideas (in their original spirit) gets considered and adopted in my own country, but I want to share this with everybody in the world – whoever cares to listen and engage. I hope to spark a global conversation among students, parents, teachers, industry leaders and educational leaders regarding the future of mathematics education, according to needs and challenges that are currently felt in the 21

*attained*curriculum, as well as analysing mathematics education or educational technology initiatives. As a citizen of^{st}Century world and as well as unforeseen needs.
When we talk about mathematics curricula, we need to distinguish between the Singapore (intended) mathematics curriculum, and is influenced by my post-graduate studies of the academic literature in mathematics education, as well as

*intended*curriculum (what we think should be taught),*implemented*curriculum (what teachers actually teach) and the*attained*curriculum (what students actually end up learning). These are different things. My framework attempts to build upon the strengths of the present
my observations and reflections of my personal experiences in my career as a teacher, tutor, instructional designer, educational software developer, researcher and consultant. To explain my framework fully, it would probably take many pages and chapters. Here, I shall give an introduction to my main ideas.

**Crisis in Mathematics Education – “Iceberg” Metaphor**

Mathematics is an enterprise of gaining knowledge about the regularities and patterns

in our universe that has been practiced by people from different cultures in history throughout the world. Most schools around the world try to teach only certain mathematical facts and procedures, which are only a very small part of what mathematics is really about (hence “the tip of the iceberg”). And even with this, they are already struggling. Politicians and curriculum developers tend to focus on tests and examinations that assess concepts, skills and processes (algorithms or methods of calculation). Parents naturally want their children to “do well” in mathematics. Many people think that the best and “objective” way to indicate this is via paper-and-pen examination and test grades. For the sake of “accountability”, most teachers around the world seem to be pressured to take an exam-oriented approach to teaching mathematics (and much else). What tends to get ignored are things like the development of students’ ability to solve real-world problems, the ability to learn on their own, the willingness to engage in life-long learning, the ability to “figure out things” on their own, a love and thirst for knowledge and sense-making of the world, the cultivation of values (e.g. appreciation of beauty, connection with other disciplines, precision, rigour) and dispositions (e.g. creativity, patience, meticulousness, succinctness, critical thinking, a questioning mind … etc). The “mathematics” most students get at the end of their school career is probably some spotty recollection of a few concepts and a few tricks and this fades in their adult life.

Figure 3 – What most students achieve in maths |

Furthermore, educators around the world generally fail to connect with students’ identities: a sense of who they are as human beings in this world, their roles, goals, wishes, aspiration, ambitions, decisions and life-stories, and how mathematics is relevant to the development of these matters. This is true even of the best students, what more of the rest of the students. Students who are “good” in mathematics (in our current education systems) may not like mathematics or see its relevance to their lives. They may just be able to grudgingly attain good “performances” in mathematical tasks. The bulk of the students are disengaged. They think “You know … maths is just one of those things we have to get through in order to get to the university course of my choice”. The “worst” students hate mathematics and the system, and they become disruptive and anti-social – they literally “deconstruct” the system and yet they do not have anything constructive to show for in its place.

Figure 4 – What “mathematics” computers can already do now |

We now live in the Information Age where information technologies (e.g. graphing calculators, Computer Algebra Systems, Wolfram Alpha, … etc) are getting more and more advanced by the day and can now do many of the numerical and algebraic/symbolic calculations that schools are trying so hard to teach to human beings. [2015 Update: Recently, mobile apps like PhotoMath appeared on the market. These apps allow students to snap photos of mathematics homework problems and the apps will solve the maths problems for them, including the working. ] Actually, we do not need human beings to do the procedures of algebra and calculus anymore – machines can do them much faster and with less hassle. There is no need to have them sit for mathematics classes to be taught with boring lectures and colourful textbooks, occasionally spiced up by some “math apps”, and then fail to learn perfectly. Dear reader, if you have not realised it by now, this spells

D I S A S T E R.

The human beings who graduate from our mathematics education (if ever they do) are redundant! It is a false comfort that today we have technology that can even do mathematics homework for students. In fact, this is the very reason that these students are irrelevant in the current and future job market. Furthermore, they do not acquire a wholistic mathematical education for their adult living.

D I S A S T E R.

The human beings who graduate from our mathematics education (if ever they do) are redundant! It is a false comfort that today we have technology that can even do mathematics homework for students. In fact, this is the very reason that these students are irrelevant in the current and future job market. Furthermore, they do not acquire a wholistic mathematical education for their adult living.

Figure 5 – What humans need but do not learn in most schools |

My proposed new framework attempts to address these challenges by putting emphasis on the deeper things. This is not just about economic survival, but it is about what is most important for us as human beings trying to make sense of this universe as we live in it.

**The Context**

In my framework, the learning of mathematics takes place in the context of real-life (symbolised by the land and sky) and a community (represented by the ocean).

The “Iceberg” points to real-life: that means students link mathematics to contextualised

*real-life applications*and*authentic problems*. Students see how mathematics is*relevant to their own lives*and how mathematics is being applied. [This does not mean sacrificing generalization and abstraction, but being able to see how the processes of generalisation and abstraction, when done properly, can be transferred to other contexts or new contexts. This also means connection with other disciplines or subjects.]
The community refers to fellow learners (not necessarily form the same age or country) and teachers and experts. Instead of competitive individual learning,

*collaboration*and connection with the world beyond classroom walls,*contribution to society*is encouraged.

**The First Five Layers**

The First Five Layers of my “Iceberg” framework cover the following:-

(1) Concepts

§ Numerical § Algebraic § Geometrical

§ Statistical § Probabilistic § Analytical

(2) Skills

§ Numerical calculation § Algebraic manipulation § Spatial visualization

§ Data analysis § Measurement § Use of mathematical tools § Estimation

§ Data analysis § Measurement § Use of mathematical tools § Estimation

(3) Processes

§ Reasoning § Communication and connections

§ Thinking skills and heuristics § Application and modelling

§ Thinking skills and heuristics § Application and modelling

(4) Metacognition

§ Monitoring of one’s own thinking § Self-regulation of learning

§ Monitoring of one’s own thinking § Self-regulation of learning

(5) Attitudes

§ Beliefs § Interest § Appreciation § Confidence § Perseverance

**The Deep Layer**

Below these five layers, we have the following:-

(1) Problem Solving

§ Understanding § Planning § Executing § Evaluating § Reflecting

§ Understanding § Planning § Executing § Evaluating § Reflecting

(2) Dispositions

§ Habits of Mind § Transfer of Learning

(3) Values

§ Purpose of Learning § Utility § Aesthetics

§ Ways

§ Life-long Learning § Self-Directed Learning § Critical Thinking

The above are very important, but these are just aspects surrounding identity

(§ Character-building § Roles § Life-story § Being and becoming)

**What these all mean**

What these all means is in my conception of an ideal student who graduated under this mathematical education framework, this person is someone who has a strong sense of who he/she is in this world and what he/she wants to do with his/her life (identity). As part of this core identity, he/she is able to solve problems, has desirable mathematical dispositions, values, is a life-long self-learner who knows how to figure things out on his/her own. The mathematical concepts, skills (including the appropriate use of technology), thinking processes, metacognition and attitudes are built upon this core. This person is able to collaborate with other people in real-life (including the ability to connect with other subject disciplines).

**Connection with other disciplines/subjects**

I have alluded to connection with other disciplines/subjects. What I have said regarding the crisis in mathematics education is probably largely true in disciplines/subjects. One can imagine that other disciplines/subjects (e.g. biology, physics, literature, history, geography … etc) all have their similar “icebergs”. Actually all these other icebergs are connected at the deep level, with “identity” as the common core. Human knowledge has traditionally been dissected and put into silos for different disciplines for ease of handling, but in reality, all aspects of knowledge and learning are interconnected and there are no artificial boundaries.

**Questions to Ponder**

1. Do you think my framework is practical? Do you know of any places and/or

schools already implementing all aspects of my framework (without necessarily

putting them in the format that I have described)? Which school?

Which district / province / country?

schools already implementing all aspects of my framework (without necessarily

putting them in the format that I have described)? Which school?

Which district / province / country?

2. How would you redesign your province’s mathematics curriculum?

3. If you are a current school teacher, would you want to redesign your next mathematics

lesson after reading this article?

lesson after reading this article?

4. Using my framework, how would you approach the evaluation of the

*attained*

curriculum (what students end up learning) in your country / school / district?
Remember: students do not just learn facts (e.g. “1+3=4” ) and skills (e.g. factorisation)

They also learn knowingly or unwittingly attitudes (e.g. that “mathematics is boring”,

“it has nothing to do with my life”, “Oh! It’s just a bunch of calculations”, “it has got

nothing to do with logic”, “answers are what matters, not how you got it”, “just learn it

from the teacher”, “don’t give me that cr** about reasoning, just give me the facts”

etc.).

They also learn knowingly or unwittingly attitudes (e.g. that “mathematics is boring”,

“it has nothing to do with my life”, “Oh! It’s just a bunch of calculations”, “it has got

nothing to do with logic”, “answers are what matters, not how you got it”, “just learn it

from the teacher”, “don’t give me that cr** about reasoning, just give me the facts”

etc.).

5. Using my framework, how would you evaluate your country / school / district’s

teach your curriculum? What are you going to do about it?

*implementation*of your curriculum? Do you see any gaps in the way teachers actuallyteach your curriculum? What are you going to do about it?

6. Do you agree with everything I have said? Do you have anything to add or take away?

7. How does your school’s technology use fit into this framework? How does it, for

example, support students’ mathematical epistemologies (i.e. they way they learn, and

the way they critically assess the knowledge that they have acquired via searching,

experimentation, … etc)?

example, support students’ mathematical epistemologies (i.e. they way they learn, and

the way they critically assess the knowledge that they have acquired via searching,

experimentation, … etc)?

8. Consider Apple’s latest initiative to put cheaper-than-paper-textbooks material on the

market. If you were to use a red-coloured pencil to shade the areas being covered in

my framework, what areas would be shaded?

market. If you were to use a red-coloured pencil to shade the areas being covered in

my framework, what areas would be shaded?

9. Any other business …

**Conclusion**

Actually, there is no conclusion. We have only just begun. With my introduction, I hope everybody has a clear idea of the issues we face today and what areas need to be addressed. You may agree or disagree with me, or you may want to suggest some things. Let the conversation begin. Put your comments/feedback below or email me.