Using Mathematics to Understand Social Issues

Anthony Fernandes, Mathematics and Statistics, UNC Charlotte

This seminar will be held at UNC Charlotte Main Campus

When I ask my students at the university what they think mathematics is, I usually get answers like “math involves numbers and variables” or “math is the study of patterns”. In general the students also think that mathematics problems are disconnected from their lives. When pressed for examples they usually point to tipping and shopping. However, mathematics goes beyond being an abstract subject. It can be used as a lens to examine social issues that intersect with our lives.

In this seminar we will use mathematics as a lens to examine issues that include racial profiling, environmental degradation, and the use of sweatshops shops. We will engage in readings and examine relevant data connected to pertinent social issues. Through our discussions we will gain a better understand of probability, statistics and algebra and how these ideas can be developed within a social context. In this process we will also gain a deeper understanding of the social issues. By building on these ideas in the classroom there is potential to engage students in mathematics and also foster the growth of an informed citizen.

This seminar would be appropriate for math teachers at all levels, as well as social studies, art, science and language arts teachers.