Nature + Nurture: Developing a Mathematical Model of Human Potential

Jeffrey Barnes, Math, Rocky River High School

Curriculum Unit (pdf)


In an article entitled “Trait versus Fate” the following exchange/joke is told.  Darwin and Freud walk into a bar.  Two alcoholic mice-a mother and her son-sit on two bar stools, lapping gin from two thimbles.  The mother mouse looks up and says, “Hey, geniuses, tell me how my son got into this sorry state.”  “Bad Inheritance,” says Darwin.  “Bad mothering,” says Freud.  This exchange exposes two competing views, is it nature/biology or nurture/psychology that shapes individuals and their future offspring or is some type of synthesis of the two that work together.  Nature & Nurture will explore the unique way that environment and experiences interact to influence the genetic code of individuals.  This interaction between environment and man can be in the form of nutrition, chemicals, and in some cases continued exposure to harmful elements in the environment.  This unit will focus on Statistics/Probability, provide examples of the intersection of mathematics and biological processes, such as cell division through exponential functions, and describe a lesson for an AP Calculus class on optimization in a biological context.