Joined USJ: 1999
“Students who have gone through their local school systems tend to think of math as memorization, often without understanding the concepts. They have no idea how important creative thinking can be,” observes Ekaterina Lioutikova. “Too often in traditional education, teachers do not have sufficient math background to teach the subject effectively,” she explains. “When a child comes up with a creative idea, the teacher must understand enough to realize the idea is valuable and encourage rather than discourage students being creative in math. It is more than memorizing steps.”
That is why her classes aim to convey a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts, and encourage an appreciation for individual approaches in arriving at solutions. “Mathematics is reasoning, communicating ideas and justifying arguments,” says Lioutikova, a mathematician who spent her childhood in Russia, earned her Master’s and Ph.D. in Canada, and is very much at home at USJ, supporting and encouraging women pursuing math education.
Her current research focus grew out of a USJ course she developed, focusing on how pre-service elementary teachers change their attitudes towards math as they proceed through the USJ curriculum. “Determining what level of math knowledge is necessary to teach math is a very active research area in the field right now,” Lioutikova says. “To teach effectively, it needs to be quite advanced and sophisticated, and highly specialized. It is different than the math necessary to be an engineer or a chemist.” Her goal is to “help future teachers re-conceptualize and build on their current mathematical knowledge in ways that will be useful for teaching.”
Working with the New Britain schools, Lioutikova is one of the USJ coordinators for a professional development program funded by the state Department of Education that puts her research into practice – focusing on math content and pedagogy simultaneously, expanding the preparation of elementary and middle school math teachers and having them serve as resources for colleagues in their local schools. The initiative is in line with the state’s move to “common core standards,” a new nationwide curriculum aimed at improving math education. Through her work with current and future teachers, Lioutikova enthusiastically offers ways to “learn how children think about math,” providing the perspective and know-how to better serve students, and ultimately bolster math education throughout the country.
Ph.D., McGill University
M.S., McGill University
B.S., Omsk University (Russia)