This afternoon the MAA-AMS-SIAM Gerald and Judith Porter Public Lecture was given by Cathy O’Neil, “Big data, inequality, and democracy.”
O’Neil started by giving on overview of what she calls a Weapon of Math Destruction. They are “creepy algorithms,” O’Neil says, ones that are used by large groups of people to make important decisions, and they are algorithms that are secret and unfair. O’Neil has talked about these sorts of algorithms on her blog and in her column for Bloomberg View.
This morning Ben Orlin gave the MAA Lecture for Students and Teachers, “Tic-Tac-Toe (or, What is Mathematics?)” as part of a day-long series of public lectures at the JMM. Orlin writes the blog Math With Bad Drawings, which was recently developed into a book of the same name. A charming high school math teacher with a knack for capturing poignant observations about math with google-eyed stick figures, his talk did not disappoint.
Shoot, I accidentally sat right next to Anna Haensch, who was also planning on blogging and who co-writes the great AMS Blog on Math Blogs. Well, I’m taking it. Also, it was nice to meet Anna! We’ve talked on the internet but haven’t met before. And Adriana Salerno, the editor of this blog, live-tweeted the talk.
The overarching picture is that telling stories is really hard.
Flora told us that there were three keys to talking about math so people want to listen. It turned out that a lot of people want to talk about math so people want to listen! It was a very crowded room.
I ended up on the floor in the very front, hence the angles for the photos…
LATHISMS: showcasing the contributions of Latinx and Hispanics to the mathematical sciences
Gabriel talked about his experience in graduate school and awakening to the fact that there weren’t that many well-known women in mathematics. He talked about Noether, and enjoying this poster by the AMS of women in mathematics:
The name of this talk isn’t quite right, since they have several other math mamas tell their stories. But it’s great! If you didn’t know, I (Yen) identify strongly with this session since I had two kids while getting my Ph.D.
Alicia Prieto Langarica of Youngstown State University, who also co-organized this session, started her talk by telling us that she wouldn’t use the words “diversity” or “equity” or “Latinx” etc. and challenged us audience members to think about why she wouldn’t be using these words.
I’m a little frazzled right now because I live-blogged the last two talks and I ran off to see a friend talk in the HBCU session, but his flight was delayed so then I ran back to go to this session. Alicia is trying to push the audience into talking and interacting and it is delightful.
She opened with a series of statistics: about half of the people who intend to be math majors end up dropping out, and about 10% of math B.A.s end up going on to get a math Ph.D. (but not really, because the number of math Ph.D.s also includes international students. So the actual ratio is much lower.)
If the math major is preparing students to be academic mathematicians, then of course students won’t major in math. But people in industry do want mathematicians and students who can think logically and mathematically competently and who can translate real life problems into math problems, who have communication skills who can work with others. So how can we mathematicians help students prepare for careers in industry, by using our tools of mathematics research?
Michael Young of Iowa State University talked about equity in the K-12 classroom. With his Designing for Equity by Thinking program, they worked in Pittsburgh Public Schools, which are over 70% black students and over 70% white teachers.
We narrowed in on race, we narrowed in on mathematics throughout the entire project.
The purpose of the project was to decrease the opportunity gap: they wanted to educate the teachers about groups of students who didn’t have the same opportunities as their peers. Michael talked about how this project helped him as a parent, a community member, and a teacher personally as well.
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