Mathematical Affections: Assessing Values in the Math Classroom

I will be speaking on “Mathematical Affections: Assessing Values in the Math Classroom” at the 2013 ACMS Conference. Here is the abstract for the talk:

“When am I ever going to use this?” As a math teacher, this is the number one question that I hear from students. It is also a wrong question; it isn’t the question the student truly intended to ask. The question they are really asking is “Why should I value this?” and they express their inquiry in terms of practicality because that is the language in which their culture has conditioned them to speak. While the utility of mathematical concepts are certainly important, we as educators need to utilize the mathematics classroom to address the more fundamental issue of fostering a proper sense of values. Learning has little meaning unless it produces a sustained and substantial influence on the way people think, act, feel, and ultimately worship. According to the NCTM standards it is through assessment that we most clearly communicate to students what aspects of mathematics are to be valued. This talk will address two essential questions:

1) Why is it necessary to develop assessments that equip students to not only know and practice but also love that which is true, good and beautiful?

2) How do we design worthwhile mathematical assessments that synthesize something seemingly non-objective like personal values with something seemingly non-subjective like mathematics?

The title of this talk is in homage to Jonathan Edwards’ Treatise on Religious Affections. Edwards’ goal was to discern the true nature of religion and in so doing dissuade his congregation from merely participating in a Christian culture (a mimicked outward expression) and motivate them to long for true Christian conversion (an inward reality of authentic Christian character). The purpose of this talk is to engage ACMS members in discerning the true nature of mathematical assessment and how we use it in the classroom: does it simply mimic the modern culture of utility by requiring outward demonstrations of knowledge retention and application, or does it aim deeper at analyzing true inward character formation? In closing, examples of affective mathematical assessments will be presented as resources for consideration and classroom use.

I also have the honor of serving as a panel member for a session on service-learning organized by Dr. Karl-Dieter Crisman of Gordon College. Here is the abstract on that talk:

Many of us have wanted to incorporate service experiences in courses, or are being asked by our institutions to do so. Service-learning is a way of looking at service as being a partner with and leading to learning for our students. But in math, there are not a lot of resources to use! Our panelists will present classroom-tested ideas from several different levels of course, and we will end with a short time for more brainstorming among all participants.

I will share more details on both of these talks as the conference draws near. For now, here are links to some related posts on as well as other sites:

PRIMUS and Service-Learning

Serving Through Statistics

CAMT 2012 Presentation

God, Math, and Order

Service-Learning Session from 2011 Joint Math Meetings (Organized by Dr. Crisman)


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