Learning from typhoons and floods

Early this year, NISMED had been invited to participate in the 7th APEC Tsukuba International Conference. The conference was the third of a series and is part of a project that began in 2012 and will end in 2014. The long-term goals of the project are to save schoolchildren from disasters with the use of visual materials; to share scientific materials which should be taught in schools; and to develop teaching materials using data which are necessary to scientifically understand the mechanism and effects of disasters.

The objective of this year’s conference may be apparent from the rather long title—Innovation of  Mathematics Education through Lesson Study – Challenges to Mathematics Education to Emergency Preparedness (Learning from Experience, Science of Disasters, and Preparing for the Future (II) Focusing on Flood and Typhoon). The conference was held in Tokyo, Japan on 14-17 February 2013.

Upon the recommendation of NISMED Director Dr. Soledad Ulep, Dr. Masami Isoda of the University of Tsukuba invited Dr. Mahar Lagmay of the UP National Institute of Geological Sciences to serve as one of the keynote speakers. Dr. Lagmay talked to an audience largely consisting of mathematics educators about natural disasters in the Philippines, and Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards). The other keynote speaker, Dr. Somporn Chuai-Aree of Prince of Songkla University, shared mathematical tools for flood simulation and visualization for the management of floods.

Education specialists from the different APEC economies presented the products of last year’s lesson study using dbook, an application designed for developing digital textbooks. The short ebook presented by the Philippines, entitled Understanding Earthquakes, is the result of collaborative work between NISMED and Sta. Lucia High School in Pasig City. To encourage the production of more ebooks, Dr. Isoda conducted a workshop on how to use dbookPro, the latest version of the computer program.

One of the highlights of the conference involved a demonstration of the implementation of a lesson in an elementary school mathematics class. The participants joined hundreds of teachers from all over Japan in observing the schoolchildren as they manipulated squares in order to find out the different ways that one can form a cube. Class demonstrations are held yearly and are always well-attended, but this session was quite significant because it is Lesson Study’s 140th anniversary.