Digital Mathematical Performance

Click here for pictures from the Symposium

A Fields Institute Symposium

  • 9 June - 11 June 2006
  • Faculty of Education, University of Western Ontario

Keynote addresses (open to the public):


  • Performance happens in the theatre, at poetry readings and on the screen. What would happen if mathematicians and math educators moved outside of the domain of assessment (where performance takes on a different meaning), and used an artistic lens to ‘perform’ mathematics? If we view mathematics (doing, teaching, learning) as embodied performance, what will it look like and how can we talk about, and better understand, it? How might we express and further develop mathematical concepts physically through drama or virtually through multimodal digital tools?
  • Thinking of mathematics and mathematics teaching and learning as performance may help to destabilize and reorganize our thinking about what it means to do and teach mathematics with technology.
  • One of the goals of the symposium is for the participants to work together (and with technical and dramatical support) to create either digital or theatrical mathematical performances.

Performance Space & Time (pdf) - A symposium discussion paper authored by Susan Gerofsky of UBC.

  • Précis: I would like to propose a view of digital mathematical performance that creates a liminal space – a passageway between worlds where boundaries are deliberately blurry: boundaries including disciplinary boundaries (math vs. applied skills, music, art or drama, for example), distinctions between “teacher as knower” and “student as listener” (already challenged by the use of computer networks in schools), the differentiation between performers and audience, boundaries among the virtual, imagined and real, and mind/ body boundaries that have long played a central role in shaping the image of mathematics.
  • Susan Gerofsky is the author of A Man Left Albuquerque Heading East: Word Problems as Genre in Mathematics Education. As well as mathematics, her background includes work in filmmaking, languages and linguistics. She is an enthusiastic amateur dancer and musician, playing melodeon and penny whistle for Morris dancers and ceilidhs. She teaches mathematics education and curriculum studies at the University of British Columbia.


  • The Symposium fee is $200 per participant (waived for graduate students).
  • The Symposium fee includes:
    • Two nights accommodation in our bed & breakfast residence
    • Symposium reception, Symposium dinner, snacks, and lunches
    • 1 copy of the Symposium monograph



Friday June 9

  • 6:00-7:00 pm - Registration
    • Faculty Lounge, Faculty of Education
  • 7:00-7:30 pm - Opening remarks
    • Room 2038, Faculty of Education
  • 7:30-9:00 pm - Marcelo Borba keynote+discussion
    • Room 2038, Faculty of Education
  • 9:00 pm - Reception
    • Faculty Lounge, Faculty of Education

Saturday June 10

  • 9:00-10:30 - David Pimm keynote+discussion
    • Room 2038, Faculty of Education
  • 10:30-12:00 - Working meeting
  • 12:00-1:00 - Lunch
  • 1:00-2:30 pm - John Mighton keynote+discussion
    • Room 2038, Faculty of Education
  • 2:30-5:00 - Working meeting
  • 6:30pm - Symposium Dinner

Sunday June 11

  • 9:00-12:00 - Working meeting
  • 12:00-1:00 - Lunch
  • 1:00-3:00 - Working meeting

Organized by

  • George Gadanidis (, Faculty of Education, University of Western Ontario
  • William Higginson (, Faculty of Education, Queen's University
  • Cornelia Hoogland , Faculty of Education (, University of Western Ontario
  • Kamran Sedig (, Department of Computer Science (Faculty of Science) and Faculty of Information and Media Studies, University of Western Ontario

Previous Symposia


Marcelo Borba

Mathematics Department, São Paulo State University, Brazil

Keynote address

Humans with Media: a performance collective in the classroom?

In previous work, I have argued that knowledge is constructed by collectives of humans and non-human actors (media), in particular technologies of intelligence, including orality, writing and the new forms of multimedia language that emerge from ICT. For instance, interactions take place in online courses using chat in which there is no form of orality present, and this transforms the nature of the mathematics produced in such environments. Or, one can think of the classical example, of how the presence of software in the classroom changes the nature of the teaching of geometry, functions or calculus. In this talk, I will explore a different possibility when one considers the theoretical construct humans-with-media as the basic unit that produces knowledge. Is it possible that different media will change the nature of the performance in the classroom? Performance is borrowed from the Arts, from Theater. If we think of regular classrooms as being composed of a stage, in which there is a monologue by the teacher and spectators who are the students, how can different media contribute to different kinds of performance in the “classroom arena”?


Borba is co-author of Humans-with-Media and the Reorganization of Mathematical Thinking, published by Springer in 2005. He has published several books in Portuguese and he is the editor of a collection of mathematics education books and of one of the main journals in Brazil. Borba has contributed significantly with of mathematics education in his country. He has been the chair of the Graduate Program in Mathematics Education at UNESP, for several years. He was also elected a member of the international scientific committee of PME for four years and has been a member of the editorial board of Educational Studies in Mathematics since 1995. In 2005 he became, for the next four years, a member of the International Committee of the Group for the Psychology Mathematics Education.

John Mighton

University of Toronto

Keynote address



In 2005 Mighton won the $100,000 Siminovitch Prize in Theatre, presented to a professional playwright who advances Canadian theatre through a body of work and influences emerging theatre artists. Mighton’s play, Half-Life, won the 2005 Governor General's Award and he appeared in the Academy Award-winning film Good Will Hunting. John Mighton has taught at McMaster and the University of Toronto. He is the founder of JUMP (Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies), an educational charity providing free tutoring to elementary-level students and the author of the Myth of Ability.

David Pimm

Professor, Department of Secondary Education
Director of Cmaste Institute
Faculty of Education, University of Alberta

Keynote address

Performance, performatives and proofs


Since May 2000, David Pimm has been Professor of Mathematics Education in the Department of Secondary Education at the University of Alberta. Prior to that, he spent two years with the Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University in the US and fifteen years in the Mathematics Department of the Open University in the UK. His interests include interrelations between language and mathematics (upon which this talk will draw), as well as the language of mathematics classrooms and textbooks. In his spare time, he enjoys going to plays and reading and attempting to write poetry.



All meetings are at the Faculty of Education, University of Western Ontario, 1137 Western Road, London, ON, Canada, N6G1G7.

Parking is available at the Faculty of Education for $4 per entry (two $2 coins)

Accommodation for out of town participants is in our Elgin Hall B&B Residence. See map below.