Research Report 2007

Attention multiplying for mathematics researcher's work

Local and national media attention is adding up to a lot of interest in a Memorial Math researcher's new book.

Dr. Sherry Mantyka, director of the Mathematics Learning Centre, has been helping students struggling in mathematics for over 17 years at Memorial, trying to find ways to improve their understanding and retention.

In January, she turned her attention to an unlikely student - CBC Radio-One producer Heather Barrett, who took Dr. Mantyka up on the offer of an "extreme mathover." Ms. Barrett documented her journey to overcome her own mathematical shortcomings on radio. After she successfully completed the program and received an impressive 95 per cent on the placement test, Ms. Barrett did a segment on the issues surrounding math education on the national CBC show The Current.

Dr. Mantyka writing mathematic equations on blackboard

Dr. Sherry Mantyka will launch the book that's already drawn a lot of attention on February 12.

Dr. Mantyka says that the January 31, 2007 show immediately generated a flurry of e-mails - and book sales.

The book, The Math Plague: How to Survive School Mathematics, is designed to aid parents, teachers and students of all ages who are concerned about better math skills. It's based on Dr. Mantyka's research into why bright learners have trouble with math - and why so many new Memorial students are found to have skill levels at a Grade 6 or lower level when they take the university's Mathematics Placement Test.

Dr. Mantyka said curriculums have moved away from repetition and toward a much greater emphasis on problem solving. However, her research indicates that students would be well-served if both sides of the learning equation were emphasized. By incorporating principles found in cognitive psychology, she has identified ways to overcome the stumbling blocks to math competency.

This work has been the recent subject of articles in the Telegram, the Western Star and the Gazette, and in the spring will be featured in Canadian Living Magazine. Dr. Mantyka has also held information sessions on campus that have drawn a number of educators and parents.

Dr. Mantyka has served on numerous curriculum writing and advisory committees for the K-12 sector, and has worked with schools in the province to help them enhance skills development. Most recently, she was invited to the German Institute for Artificial Intelligence to provide advice on the design of computer software for remedial mathematics, a European Union-funded project.