This Week at Global Math – 12/1/20


Curated By Chase Orton @mathgeek76

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Online Professional Development Sessions

Webinar Tonight! — December 1st, 2020

Bringing the Math Back: Lessons in Educational Recovery from Around the World

We’ve been told repeatedly that we are teaching in unprecedented times, but in fact this is not the first round of education recovery post-natural disaster in modern times. We will look at lessons from around the world and how various nations reshaped their mathematics classrooms after interruptions due to disease, war, and weather-related phenomena. In these stories of resilience and innovation, we will imagine how our own classrooms may be reimagined in the wake of Covid-19.

Presented by: Brianna Kurtz

To register for this webinar, click here.

Check out past and upcoming Global Math Department webinars. Click here for the archives or get the webinars in podcast form!

You can also visit our new YouTube Channel to find videos of past sessions and related content.


The Definition of Smart

I have been grappling with the idea of “smart” this year. Who do we consider “smart”? What fields of study do we consider the realm of “smart” people? (Mathematics is high on that list.) How are “smartness” and school success and fulfillment in life related?

I don’t have answers yet, but I came across a definition by Tressie McMillan Cottom (@tressiemcphd) that has shifted my thinking:

“Smart is only a construct of correspondence between one’s ability, one’s environment, and one’s moment in history. I am smart in the right way, in the right time, on the right end of globalization.”

I love Tressie’s definition and until something better comes along, this is the definition I’m working with. Mostly, I appreciate the recognition of “smart” being relational, as opposed to some kind of Platonic ideal. Smart as a construct of correspondence also fits nicely in the constellation of ideas that have been helping me grow as a math educator: (1) rehumanizing mathematics (Dr. Rochelle Gutierrez, @RG1gal); (2) unlearning deficit frameworks, particularly “current conceptions” (Dr. Maria Zavala @mdrzavala); and (3) redefining who is a math person (Howie Hua, @howie_hua).

Behind all of these ideas is the understanding that we are constructing mathematics, and we are constructing our measures of success (smartness). And therein lies our power: In accepting that these are things we make, we can decide to make something different. If we value different abilities (persistence over speed), and create different environments (collaboration over competition), we will produce different definitions of smart. The power is in knowing that our current definitions of both smart and mathematics are the result of decisions made by humans, and that we can make new decisions.
Two last things about this sentence: “I am smart in the right way, in the right time, on the right end of globalization.”

  1. I appreciate the humility in this definition. We could all use a bit of humility when thinking about our smarts.
  2. Acknowledging our moment in history feels like a call to action. How many “smart” people are we losing to the wrong side of all manner of structural violences?

Big, challenging questions, but I believe in our ability to figure them out together – we are a smart bunch.

by Idil Abdulkadir (@idil_a_)

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Idil for being this week’s guest writer! Have an interest in writing for the Global Math Department Newsletter? Check out the invitation at the end of this Newsletter.

Focusing on the Positive

“It’s human nature to focus on the negative, but often a lot more is going right in your classroom than is going wrong.”

2020 has been a tough year to say the least, but good things are happening in 2020—we just might need a shift in perspective to help us see them. Simply learning how to look at a situation from a different point of view can change our negative interpretations to more positive ones.

With this in mind, I want to share this 2018 article by Patricia Jennings and MindShift (@MindShiftKQED) called “Changing How Educators See Negative Experiences in the Classroom.”


I invite you to give a read. And then take a look around you. What are some good things that are happening this year? How can we look at 2020 with a positive perspective?

by Amber Thienel (@amberthienel)

Thorn, Rose, Rosebuds

For this week’s entry in the Global Math Department newsletter, I’m keeping it simple by adhering to the “thorn, rose, rosebud” framework: one thing that’s no good; one thing that’s good and happened; and two things that are good and on the horizon.

Ellie Murray (below), Dave Kung (tweet) and others (e.g.) drew attention to a print ad from AT&T in the NYTimes. It is nice that the response to “thorny” ads like these is swift, but there were surely numerous points from brainstorming to publishing during which this could have been interrupted. I’m all for the call out, and/but: If you find yourself somewhere in the pipeline with the opportunity to disrupt before materials like these appear, be the one who speaks up!

As mentioned in a past newsletter, the Fields Institute planned and held its LGBTQ+ Math Day!

You can read more about the event in the AMS Inclusion/Exclusion blog post or on the event page (site hosted by Anthony Bonato). Relatedly, check out the sequence of tweets from Laurie Rubel here.
Marian Dingle is giving a talk this Friday! It is entitled “Opening the Mathematical Gates: Moving Toward Inclusivity and Belonging,” and if past talks are any indication, it will most surely be worth your time. You can visit the talk page or find it in the tweet below (note the timing: Friday, December 4th, at 8PM EST):

Finally, the United States is at an exciting turning point such that a weaponized Department of Education, headed by unqualified republican megadonor / “shoot the grizzly bears” betsy devos, is transitioning to an incoming administration that will have a First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, who holds a doctorate in education! The new administration has a “Join Us” website, and so I am personally urging YOU as a reader of the Global Math Department newsletter, if eligible to work in the United States, to consider submitting your CV/resume for consideration. A government, like any organization, is only as strong as its people; perhaps nothing will come from it, but I believe that an influx of applications by GMD readers would be a step in the right direction:

by Benjamin Dickman [@benjamindickman]

The Global Math Department and researchers at North Carolina State University are undertaking a study to learn about teachers’ learning experiences from participation in the GMD. You can participate in this study if you have participated in the GMD as a presenter, attendee of a GMD conference, or reader of the GMD newsletter. 

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