Robert Craigen

Associate Professor (Mathematics)


When Mindfulness is a Problem

Master Yoda chides Luke ” … all his life as he looked away to the horizon, never his mind on where he was … what he was doing … ”

Mindfulness is indeed a critical personal trait well worth instilling in our little padawans. But is mindfulness always on the beneficial end of the balance in the learning and doing of Mathematics? I contend that there is a time to let go … and trust the math, and that failing to do so can lead to … anxiety. And anxiety can lead to suffering. Indeed, there are strong empirical reasons to believe so, and that to think that some of today’s received wisdom about teaching math, seeking a sort of mindfulness, may result instead in unnecessary difficulty, incapacity — even hamper the intended end of understanding. I will explore some of these dimensions of mindfulness, memory, problem solving and critical thinking in mathematics, considering possible unintended consequences of cognitive-focussed instruction. Perhaps much to learn, you still have …


Rob Craigen holds a BSc. (Math, UBC), MMath (Waterloo), PhD (Pure Math, Waterloo); Director of the Manitoba Mathematical Competion; recipient of the Kirkman Medal (1994) for research in Combinatorics, a field of Pure Mathematics; taught for 26 years at universities in Alberta, California. His His concern for Math education grew out of exposure to the WNCP curriculum as he served for 4 years on the Provincial Math Curriculum Steering Commmittee. With Anna Stokke he cofounded the Western Initiative for Strengthening Education in Mathematics, a response on behalf of the professional mathematics community to changes in mathematics education across Western Canada over the past two decades.


The Most Ironically-Named Education Study

Reputed to have been the largest and most expensive comparative study of teaching interventions in history (not to mention the most ironically-named), Project Follow Through (PFT) was a 10 year longitudinal study, during the 1970s, of the effectiveness of interventions for low-SES students in “communities at risk” across the U.S., comparing the performance of numerous models representing the leading schools of educational thought in that day.  The performance of a “dark horse” model in the study surprised many.  This is the story of what happened … and what happened afterwards.

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