USask College of Education lecturer Nat Banting is the first Canadian to receive the recognition from the National Museum of Mathematics in New York. (Photo: Submitted)

USask lecturer first in Canada to receive Rosenthal prize

University of Saskatchewan College of Education lecturer and Saskatoon Marion M. Graham Collegiate teacher Nat Banting (BEd’10) has been garnering national and international attention this year for his innovative approaches to mathematics learning in the classroom.

Earlier this month, Banting was announced as the winner of the 2019 Rosenthal Prize for Innovation and Inspiration in Math Teaching for his lesson Dice Auction: Putting Outcomes of the Dice Up for Sale. In Banting’s lesson students test their intuitive probabilistic reasoning of dice throws with a dynamic “outcomes auction.”

He is the first Canadian to receive the recognition from the National Museum of Mathematics in New York. Designed to recognize and promote hands-on math teaching in upper elementary and middle school classrooms, the Rosenthal Prize carries a cash award of $25,000 and was established in 2012. 

Banting explained in a recent interview with Francois Biber of CTV News how his winning lesson included an element of risk that forces students to make more decisions about the possible outcomes.

“For instance, if a double is rolled, we can calculate the probability of that, but we’re not done, we calculate what a fair price would be and how much am I willing to overpay,” said Banting.  

After bets are placed, the pair of dice is rolled 20 times and the team that placed a bet on the most frequent outcome wins.

“The lesson in probability is that [a student] might get a really good deal on a dice roll, but it might never be rolled,” he explained. 

To qualify for the prize, Banting needed to submit a video of Grade 8 students participating in the lesson. For that, he worked with Kirsten Dyck (BEd’97), a teacher at Dalmeny High School.  

“It was amazing,” Dyck said. “Being able to teach math through authentic experiences is something many educators in Saskatchewan are passionate about and knowing my students would have this opportunity was a no-brainer for me.”

Banting is currently on leave from Saskatoon Public Schools as a lecturer in the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum Studies. He has taught high school mathematics in Saskatoon Public Schools for the last nine years and shares his teaching practice across the country through various writing projects, speaking opportunities, professional development materials and social media platforms. He is also active in mathematics-based research and has authored numerous refereed publications.

Earlier in 2019, Banting’s professional contributions resulted in him being named the recipient of the 2019 Margaret Sinclair Memorial Award recognizing innovation and excellence in Canadian mathematics education. Banting will officially receive the Rosenthal Prize at a gala at the National Museum of Mathematics in New York on January 7, 2020.