One of the advantages of leaving the classroom and returning as a student full-time is that you can participate in conferences and meet a wider circle of people who introduce you to resources you previously did not know to exist. This week I'm at the Realistic Mathematics Education Conference, presented by the Freudenthal Institute USA. FIUS is located here at the University of Colorado at Boulder and its director is Dr. David Webb.
The Freudenthal Institute was established at Utrecht University in the Netherlands by Hans Freudenthal in 1971. Freudenthal believed that math is a "human activity" and that students would learn it best if math was not presented as a static, discovered, formulated subject. Instead, the Freudenthal Institute adopts theories such as "progressive formalization," representing an informal to pre-formal to formal progression that students experience as they view mathematical situations in real-life contexts. The Freudenthal Institute is particularly strong in design theory, and Freudenthal Institute staff have contributed to research, textbooks, and international tests, always with the goal of grounding math in the context of real-life.
Today is the last day of the conference and I'll try to summarize some of the particular talks this afternoon. There are people here from 22 states and all over the world, including the Netherlands, Japan, the UK, and Nigeria. The work people have been presenting is very solid and I must admit that in my case I feel like they are preaching to the choir. The math wars aren't over yet, though, and those who fight are probably the teachers who don't even know the wars exist. Professional development like the FIUS/RME conference provides opportunity for further reform, but reform is never quick or easy. For example, check out this video clip: