Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How do we globalize math?

How do we globalize math at BB&N?  Hmmmm.   I am just going to type and see what comes to mind:

Well the quadratic formula works everywhere but that is not what we are talking about :)   How about one of those problems where you figure out how to design a bridge?  All cultures have bridges and different cultures may find different shapes pleasing or more useful.  But most students don't see these kinds of problems as authentic .  Just saying "bridge" does not make the problem real to them.  So how do we make connections?

Geometry has been a hotbed for viewing mathematics globally for quite a while.  If you see a major goal of geometry as the study of shapes and how to connect those shapes to make art and/or human constructions (buildings for example), then you might connect different designs in an authentic way with different cultural approaches.  The patterns of quilts and blankets are lush areas for study.  Perhaps the bridge problem I just mentioned might fit now here.  The mathematics of patterns and tesselations is lush and reflects many of the topics we study in isolation at BB&N.  However, how to add significant historical/cultural connections and comparisons to a curriculum?  Or is it sufficient to just make some references to the global styles and variabilities?   Maybe have students do projects related to the shapes of different global groups.  Well this feels "mathy" but is it just lip service to the goals?  Should we be spending more time in discussion about the meaning and implications of these differences or is it enough to just make our students aware of then?  It is easy in graduate school discussions to revise and mold curricula to fulfill many goals, but I guess I am wondering how far we could/should go given the goals and realities of the US Mathematics Department.

What about non-geometry courses?  Well the easy response, assuming we support our present "statistics across the mathematics curriculum" (SAC), is to use global data to make inferences and conclusions about apparently different groups.  This data is easy to come by.  We can look at different data such as health, education, income, resources, opinions,....  Who has more TV's per household.?  Does it correlate with wealth?  Health?  Education? How are these statistics related to the different values of different groups?  Statistics is the study of data in context.   Thus time spent in discussion about the conclusions and conjecturing about possible links and causes should already be part of that SAC.

Well, enough of a first ramble.  Certainly, once we find authentic differences and similarities (Islamic versus Western Art), discussions could have some influence on values and action. By the way, a Google seach of "Western Art" just lead me to pictures of cowboys and indians and moose.  Guess I better get some global education :) 

US Math Department

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