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Washington State University
College of Education

November 2009

Mathematics and meaning

Shlomo Vinner sm
Schlomo Vinner urges a broad view of mathematics

A skit about medical appointments.  One of Ingmar Bergman’s dramatic Scenes from a Marriage. Woody Allen’s comic take on mortality.

Unlikely video illustrations for a lecture on mathematics education? Not if you are Shlomo Vinner and want to discuss how teachers can and should integrate discussions of a broad view of life into their lessons.  In “The Mathematics Teacher: Between solving equations and the meaning of it all”–  one of two talks he gave this week in Pullman — the Hebrew University professor recommended that teachers use by-the-way moments in their lessons to create interest and context.  The teacher should look for those moments, Vinner said, “as a hunter looks for prey.”

Vinner’s multidisciplinary focus reflects his own life.  In her introduction, Assistant Professor Jo Clay Olson noted that the Israeli educator is an accomplished violinist and poet as well as a key player in the relatively new field of mathematics education.   The two met at a Psychology of Mathematics Education conference in Greece, and their rapport led to Vinner’s visit this week to WSU. But his impact on the state arrived long before his plane did. Vinner’s groundbreaking work is reflected in Washington State Mathematics Standards.

Reading matter

The Creator of Wikipedia Turns to Education Videos. Larry Sanger says his  new site,, will allow students and teachers to sort through a library of online videos by content, and pick out what they need. There are already enough videos linked there to consume the curiosity and time of K-12 teachers.

A faculty member ponders how to interact with students on her Facebook page: “So perhaps for students, Facebook truly is an extension of the classroom, something like a grad-student lounge in which all kinds of connections take place, some routine and some substantial.”

Educators argue endlessly about the merits of one idea or another to improve schools. But with billions of dollars at stake, the Obama administration lays out a novel federal system for keeping score.

Teacher sees all: Does technology make student cheating impossible?

A salute to veterans and kudos to faculty

saluteHer good work, bright smile and herd of Nubian goats are reasons enough to like Heidi Ritter, field services coordinator for the College of Education in Pullman.  Another reason?  She served in the U.S. Army during Operation Desert Storm.  EduCoug sends a big Veterans Day salute to Heidi and all faculty, staff, students and loved ones who have served in the armed forces.

Faculty accomplishments

Associate Professor SusanRae Banks-Joseph is just back from the Leadership Forum on Indian Education at her alma mater, Penn State, where she was identified as a prominent figure in Indian country. Prompted for a report on the occasion, Susan described it as “awesome!”:

“There were future Native leaders pursuing their master’s degrees and principal certification as well as doctoral students, program alums from across the nations, Penn State administrators, professors, and students, and community members. It is opportunities to give back such as these that help sustain the Native scholarly spirit. I sure felt renewed!”

Professor Michael Pavel, whose Native American name is CHiXapkaid,  was among authors who contributed to  S’abadeb: The Gifts: Pacific Coast Salish Arts and Artists, which recently won a Washington State Book Award in the general nonfiction category. Edited by Barbara Brotherton of Seattle (Seattle Art Museum/University of Washington Press), the book is  a compendium of Coast Salish culture through its artistry and oral traditions.

In a talk that would resonate in Indian country, Associate Professor David Greenwood gave the closing keynote for October’s 2009 North American Association of Environmental Education Research Symposium.  Titled “Nature, Empire, and Paradox in Environmental Education,” the speech mentioned such antitheses as local-global, urban-rural, environment-culture, masculine-feminine, native-settler, land-property,  social justice-ecojustice and schooling-learning. Said David:

“In the tradition of 19th century natural history, imagine an object lesson. I hold in my hands two related objects: the flight feather of a barn owl, and a wallet full of plastic and paper money. Inquiry: How do these implicate me and shape our work? Nature and empire, the flight feather of an owl and the wallet of a white man, generate a paradox, a paradox that we need to hold, and balance.”

David’s presentation will be published in the Canadian Journal of Environmental Education.

Quarter Century clubbers watch campus evolve

cub-crEduCoug wouldn’t presume to suggest that Cary Anderson has been around as long as the Compton Union Building (which, can you believe it, once had parking right out front!), but he’s seen the CUB change along with a lot of other things on the Pullman campus. Cary, an information technology specialist for the college, was honored this fall as a 25-year WSU employee. But he came to campus for the first time in 1977 as a journeyman union painter working on an addition to Bustad Hall.

Cary recalled the changes in a recent note, which read in part:

“The changes I have seen across the campus include beautiful walkways that have been put in where barely a small dirt path used to be going from Cleveland Hall to the CUB. Also I’ve seen the main road system repaved on Stadium Way and changes made at crosswalks and traffic lights. Also deep trenches dug on Stadium Way to accept the fiber optic cabling that now lies beneath the asphalt. There used to be trailers set up close to the Columbia/Chinook apartments that students rented but they were hauled away sometime in the late ’80s. I believe the name of the trailer court was OB Court (it’s a vague memory now). Included in the remodels on campus, and more recently completed, is the CUB building, which has been a huge upgrade for faculty, staff, and students. I can remember that building being very dark, crowded, and dreary. Now it’s nicely decorated with wide walkways, seating areas, restaurants, printing facilities, banking, movie theater, ballroom, Bookie, etc.”

Stacy Mohondro, assistant to the dean, was also recognized as a Quarter Century Club member at WSU Pullman. She began as a campus operator and worked for awhile at the WSU Foundation, but has spent most of her time being indispensable to College of Education administrators.  She came to the college in1986, working first for Dennis Warner when he was chair of what was then the Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology. The current search for a new dean is Stacy’s third. She helped out in 1991 when Bernard Oliver was hired, and in 1998 when Judy Mitchell came on board.

College of Education members who previously joined the Quarter Century Club are Arreed Barabasz, Lynn Buckley and Ruby Latham.

When WSU neuroscientist David Rector spoke recently about the art of writing grants, he noted that, five years ago, it would have been unusual for a graduate student to write a grant.  He would be impressed by education doctoral candidate Cara Preuss’  100-page federal grant application, which landed $30,000 with which to document the skills of Latino child care providers.

Associate Professor Gordon Gates has been appointed to Educational Administration Quarterly’s Editorial Board by the executive committee of the University Council for Educational Administration. … Interim Associate Dean Corinne Mantle-Bromley has accepted an invitation to to serve on the Association of Colleges for Teacher Education’s Committee on Research and Dissemination.

kidsDressed for sustainable success
As an adjunct faculty member at WSU Tri-Cities, Yi-Chien Chen Cooper integrates arts into the education curriculum. She was inspired when Academic Director Liza Nagel mentioned needing a dress made from recycled material for an upcoming fund-raising event.  Cooper decided to have students at her private art studio make dresses as a pilot program and teach about the results.  The young designers presented their creations at a Richland Moon Festival style show.  Joining them on the runway and in the video was Cooper’s 3-year-old daughter, Katherine, whose Dillard’s bag dress was made two hours before the show.

Bad news for clock watchers
WSU Pullman has announced that it will no longer replace classroom clocks that stop working.  While it is true that watches, phones and computers can also provide the time, this marks a cultural shift after generations of students and faculty have tried– more or less often in their academic careers — to mentally speed up the slow-moving hands on the clock.