A Global Perspective

I have just come on as Casio America’s Brand Ambassador, a part-time position that will be evolving in the next several IMG_1437months.  As I explore my partnership with Casio, my main goal is to help share with math educators how Casio Education and its technology products can support mathematics teaching and learning in a variety of ways.

As my first endeavor in this position, I was lucky to be included in Casio Internationals’ 11th Global Teacher meeting at the Casio Research and Development offices in Hamura, Japan (outside of Tokyo).  This was a two-day meeting that included the R&D engineers, teachers and Casio managers from all over the world, coming together to share new ideas in how to improve and create new Casio products that support mathematics. The goal of this collaboration, using ideas and real-world anecdotes from actual teachers using the tools as well as creative ideas from the R&D engineers, was to focus on what is best for students and teachers, and how Casio can enhance technology integration in mathematics education.

There were many truly memorable things from this whole experience, including meeting teachers from all over the world (Australia, France, Germany, Finland, Middle East, Singapore, India, Japan, U.S.), exploring Japan for the first time, and eating some food I never thought would pass my lips (i.e. squid, octopus, urchin, jellyfish, and sharkfin, & bird-nest soup). My experiences in Japan were diverse and informative, with a little crazy IMG_1540fun sprinkled in, such as experiencing Karaoke the Japanese way, in a room with a stage and microphones (be thankful that I am NOT sharing the video of that experienced!) The most apparent aspect of Japan, if you have never been, is how amazingly kind and considerate everyone is.  I never felt as well-taken care of – from the hotel staff, to the Casio employees, to the strangers on the street who, though they did not speak English, were willing to change their direction and walk the lost American to the train station. The Japanese people are generous to a fault and my time there was just lovely.

On the work side of things, my biggest take-a-way from the Casio Global Teacher Meeting was how diverse mathematics instruction and technology use is throughout the world. It makes me really question, even more than I already did, the comparisons of student math achievement between countries since how, what, and when mathematics is taught is so incredibly different.  (THAT is a post for another time!)  For this post, I thought it would be interesting to share some of the things about Casio Education/calculators that I learned as a result of this trip.

First – did you know that the first Casio calculator (14-A) was made in 1957 and is still working? (Being the confirmed math IMG_1505geek that I am, yes, I did get incredibly excited when I got to see the calculator in the lobby of the Casio R&D research facility). It can do the four basic operations with numbers up to 14 digits. In 1965 Casio made the world’s first electronic calculator with a memory function, which they started exporting to the US and Europe in 1966.

Second, Casio calculators have a larger share of the market in European countries. European countries have a Ministry of Education that makes technology decisions for the entire country, as opposed to the United States, where each school district, and sometimes each school, makes their own technology decisions.

Third, Casio’s ClassPad calculator (CP400 & CP330) seemed to be, based on the teacher’s present in this meeting, the most-used graphing calculator in these countries, and used in remarkable ways. It is a pen-touch-screen calculator, with drag-and-drop menus and so many other advanced functionalities. In the U.S. this calculator is not yet approved by the College Board for use on SAT & ACT, so it’s not as prevalent here – but boy, it should be!

IMG_1514Fourth, the real-world applications of mathematics in these other countries seems to be much more of a push than here in the U.S. The Japanese teacher shared a typical problem with us that students are expected to solve in mathematics on a regular basis (with no calculators, which is astounding!). All I could think, while reading through the problem was, wow – this is what the Common Core problem-solving is all about, but unfortunately, NOT what we are actually seeing in the classroom.

Fifth, teachers from all over the world have the same vision – to help students love math, to help students use technology to engage and expand mathematical understanding, and to help students become mathematical problem-solvers. While everyone was doing these things in slightly different ways, and some to more extremes than others, everyone was clearly motivated to help make mathematics engaging, understandable, and applicable.

And finally, from the R&D end of things, hearing what the Casio R&D folks were thinking of in terms of ways to improve calculators and create more engaging products for students and teachers, I was impressed with how Casio really wanted to learn about how their products were being used in the classrooms, both the
good and the bad. They listened, they asked questions, and they really wanted to know what they could do to support mathematics education. It was an incredibly informative two days of collaboration between those in the field teaching and those creating the tools being used by teachers and students.IMG_1511

So – the beginning of my Casio adventure was exciting and interesting and gave me a global perspective I did not have before. With that, I now hope to continue to learn and share my thoughts and opinions about math education and how Casio, as a global manufacturer of mathematical tools, can support teachers, students and mathematics education. Would love any ideas, questions, suggestions about things you would like to hear about related to math education, so please feel free to share some with me so I can do some research and hopefully provide some answers/solutions.