### A 2024 Special Semester organized by Francis Su & Stephan Tillman

This interactive seminar series explored and illuminated the human side of mathematics—the culture(s) of mathematics, how we teach and do research in it, who we include, and the impact of how we communicate maths to students and the broader public. Discussions and invited presentations helped participants envision how they can improve the culture, practices, and communication around maths to better serve their communities. The topics will interest mathematicians, educators, and practitioners.

Participants joined for rich discussions and interaction, and the stage was set from the first week for connecting with others interested in pursuing a holistic approach to maths and maths education. Suggested readings are listed below, and all talks were free and open to the public. The special semester led up to the International Congress of Mathematical Education taking place in Sydney from 7–14 July 2024.

## Schedule

##### Theme One: What is Mathematics?

*Introduction: Establishing Important Questions*

1 March 2024

*Abstract:* In this first session to open the Perspectives Seminar, we will establish important questions we would like to tackle over the course of the term around the humanity, culture, and communication of mathematics. Meet others interested in exploring these topics, hear the organisers talk about the goals of the seminar, and participate in interactive activity and discussion. Suggested readings will enhance one’s experience in the seminar.

*What is Mathematics?*

8 March 2024

*Abstract:* This week in the Perspectives Seminar, we explore the nature of maths, its connection to human longings, why the beauty of maths is often missing from maths education, and how technology is changing what it means to think mathematically. We will share and reflect on ideas for changing teaching practices, so that participants emerge with concrete actionable ideas. All are welcome. Readings are not required to engage in discussion, but we encourage participants to read at least one from the “What is Mathematics?” collection of the suggested readings to enhance your experience.

This seminar series will explore and illuminate the human side of mathematics—the culture(s) of mathematics, how we teach and do research in it, who we include, and the impact of how we communicate maths to students and the broader public. Discussions and invited presentations will help participants envision how they can improve the culture, practices, and communication around maths to better serve their communities. We imagine the topics will interest mathematicians, educators, and practitioners.

###### Readings for Theme One

- Eugenia Cheng,
*How to Bake Pi*, Chapter 1 (What is Math?). - Paul Lockhart,
*A Mathematician’s Lament*(esp. pages 1-5). - Keith Devlin, How technology has changed what it means to think mathematically (esp. pages 60-63).
- Nalini Joshi, TV Interview on the Weekly (esp. 4:25-5:00)
- Günter Ziegler and Andreas Loos, What Is Mathematics? And why we should ask…
- Francis Su, Mathematics for human flourishing.

##### Theme Two: Cultures of Research in Mathematics

*The Cultures of Mathematics Research*

18 March 2024

*Abstract:* In week 3 of the Perspectives Seminar, we examine the culture(s) of mathematics research, discussing readings by Tao, Mirzakhani, Thurston, Gowers, Chung, Eischen. In what ways is maths research a human enterprise? Does one need to be a ‘genius’ to do maths research? How is progress made? What kind of support is needed? We’ll also prepare for the following week’s panel discussion with members of the IMU. All are welcome. Readings are not required to engage in discussion, but we encourage you to do some of the suggested readings (in the “Cultures of Maths Research” section) to enhance your experience.

*Panel Discussion in conjunction with the IMU-SMRI event*

25 March 2024

*Abstract:* Moderator: Francis Su (Harvey Mudd College)*Panellists:* Nalini Joshi (University of Sydney), JongHae Keum (KIAS), Jason Sharples (UNSW Canberra), Natalie Thamwattana (University of Newcastle) & Günter Ziegler (FU Berlin)*Details:* This panel will explore and illuminate the human side of mathematics—the culture(s) of mathematics, how we teach and do research in it, who we include, and the impact of how we communicate maths to students and the broader public. Discussions with the panellists will help participants envision how they can improve the culture, practices, and communication around maths to better serve their communities.

###### Readings for Theme Two

- Terence Tao, Does one have to be a genius to do maths?
- Maryam Mirzakhani Interview, from the Clay Mathematics Institute.
- Timothy Gowers, The Two Cultures of Mathematics (esp. pages 1-4 and 15-16).
- William Thurston, On Proof and Progress in Mathematics (esp. page 1 and pages 11 onwards).
- Fan Chung, Advice for Graduate Students.
- Ellen Eischen, Moving Ahead in Your Research.

##### Theme Three: Our Cultural Understanding of Mathematics

*Our cultural understanding of mathematics*

12 April 2024

*Abstract:* This week we examine our cultural understanding of mathematics, including some myths about the social history of mathematics, the perceptions about maths as gendered and of maths as culture-free. We also consider how these influences shape our understanding of maths of the Indigenous peoples of Australia. Discussants will discuss readings by Grabiner, Hottinger, Bishop, Xu-Ball, and Harris. All are welcome, even if you’ve not attended the seminar before. Readings are not required to engage in discussion, but we encourage you to do some of the suggested readings (in the “Our Cultural Understanding of Mathematics” section) to enhance your experience. This week is also preparation for our visitors in the subsequent week, who will speak about the mathematics of Australian First Nations cultures.

*Indigenous Mathematics: what can we learn and how might it shape us as educators?*

With Rowena Ball and Jared Field 19 April 2024

*Abstract:* Rowena Ball (ANU) and Jared Field (U. Melbourne) join us in week 6 of the Perspectives Seminar, in which we discuss questions like these: Why is it important that Australians understand the cultural history of mathematics done by Indigenous peoples? How might a better appreciation improve both the way we teach and learn maths, as well as the content of maths itself? What can Indigenous Mathematics teach us about the place of Western mathematics in human knowledge? All are welcome, even if you’ve not attended the seminar before. Readings are not required to engage in discussion, but we encourage you to do some of the suggested readings (in the “Our Cultural Understanding of Mathematics” section) to enhance your experience.

###### Readings for Theme Three

- Judith Grabiner, Why should historical truth matter to mathematicians?
- Alan Bishop, Western Mathematics: the secret weapon of cultural imperialism.
- Hongzhang Xu and Rowena Ball, Is the study of Indigenous mathematics ill-directed or beneficial?
- John Harris, Australian Aboriginal and Islander Mathematics.
- Sara Hottinger,
*Inventing the Mathematician: Gender, Race, and Our Cultural Understanding of Mathematics*, Introduction, pp.1-13.

##### Theme Four: Becoming Inclusive Maths Communities

*Making Maths Spaces Inclusive of Women: What Can I Do?*

With Catherine Greenhill and Ben Burton 3 May 2024

*Abstract:* Catherine Greenhill (UNSW) and Ben Burton (U. Queensland) join us in week 7 of the Perspectives Seminar. We will learn about their efforts to make math communities more inclusive of women, such as in the formation of WIMSIG (Greenhill) and in diversifying math competitions (Burton). They will help us to think about how we, in our own roles, can inspire changes in our own spheres of influence, through changes in structure, climate, and the development of community.

*Towards a Fully Inclusive Mathematics Profession: How One Math Society Wrestled With a Legacy of Racism*

With Francis Su 10 May 2024

*Abstract:* There are many obstacles to the support of inclusive mathematical communities, including historical discrimination. In 2021, the American Mathematical Society (AMS) released a report that wrestled with the legacy of racism within the society by interviewing mathematicians about their experiences, naming specific historical injustices, outlining patterns of exclusion, and making recommendations to the society for change. As VP of AMS at the time and co-chair of the Task Force that produced the report, Francis will describe the efforts of the task force, some of its findings, what has happened since then, and lessons learned.

###### Readings for Theme Four

- Cheryl Praeger and Lesley Ward, Women Working in Mathematics in Australian Universities and the Women in Mathematics Special Interest Group. PDF here (first article).
- Interview with Ben Burton on The Neumann Talk, especially minutes 36:00-42:00 on improving gender representation in math competitions.
- Alice Silverberg, He reminds me of myself at that age.
- Rachel Bernstein, Belief that some fields require ‘brilliance’ may keep women out. Also skim the associated research article (especially the diagrams).
- In the American Mathematical Society’s report
*Towards a Fully Inclusive Mathematics Profession*, read the*Preface*(story of William Claytor) and*Chapter 5*(Lack of Professional Respect). - Robin Wilson, “A View of Mathematics from Behind the Veil”, pp. 43-46 in:
*Living Proof: Stories of Resilience Along the Mathematical Journey**.* - Emille Davie Lawrence, “A Dream Almost Deferred”, pp. 104-105 in:
*Living Proof: Stories of Resilience Along the Mathematical Journey**.*

##### Theme Five: Impact on Teaching and Communicating Mathematics

*Mathematical Journey into Inclusive Teaching*

With Amie Albrecht and Eddie Woo 24 May 2024

*Abstract:* Amie Albrecht (UniSA) and Eddie Woo (USyd) will join us in Week 9 of the Perspectives Seminar. Albrecht is a mathematician at UniSA now doing work in mathematics education, and Woo is a well-known Australian mathematics teacher, now Professor of Practice at USyd working to help other teachers improve their craft. They will share their journeys, their insights into what it means to teach mathematics inclusively, and what university educators can learn from those whose expertise is in maths education.. In discussion, we’ll think about how we can improve our own practice of teaching maths in inclusive ways.

*Public Lecture: Using math to invent solutions* to large-scale human problems, just in time to survive AI

With Po-Shen Loh 29 May 2024

*Communicating maths for the public*

With Po-Shen Loh 31 May 2024

*About the speaker: *Po-Shen Loh (Carnegie Mellon University), who will have given the SMRI Public Lecture earlier in the week, will join us in Week 10 of the Perspectives Seminar. Loh has been very active as a public communicator of maths. He gave 200+ talks in 100 cities last year, reaching tens of thousands of people in person, and has featured in or co-created videos totaling over 21 million YouTube views. In interactive discussion, Loh will discuss how he approaches public communication, what the thinks about as he prepares, mistakes he’s made, lessons he’s learned, and how we might approach the future of public communication around mathematics. Participants will also reflect on their roles as communicators of mathematics.

*Using Your Voice for Influence: Writing Math Pieces for Newspapers*

With Francis Su, 7 – 14 June 2024

*Abstract:* The degeneration of public discourse and the proliferation of fake news is cause for great

concern among people who value facts, evidence, and civility. As mathematicians, we are in a

unique position to combat this troubling trend with quantitative information, but to be effective

we need to be able to reach a general audience. One way to do that is by writing opinion for

popular print or online media. In the final two sessions of the Perspectives Seminar, Francis Su (who has written math-related opinion for newspapers and hosted workshops at the Joint Meetings to train others) explained how to choose compelling topics and angles, distill relevant quantitative information, write at an appropriate level, and get your work into the hands of people who will publish it.

In part 2 of this workshop, participants brought drafts of a piece that they’ve worked on since Part 1, and offered feedback and comments on each others’ drafts. The goal was to have a piece that is almost ready for submission to an appropriate venue.

###### Readings for Theme Five

**Teaching Maths**

- Darryl Yong, A Professor Goes to High School to Learn about Teaching Math.
- William F. Tate, Race, Retrenchment, and the Reform of School Mathematics.
- Amie Albrecht, The Shape of our Mathematical Beliefs and Teaching through Listening.
- Art Duval, Kindness in the Mathematics Classroom.
- Jessica Sidman, Thoughts on Helping Students to Feel Included.

**Communicating Maths to the Public:**

**Video:**Eugenia Cheng on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.**Video:**Jordan Ellenberg, Tik-Tok video: “Counting Holes in a Straw”.**Video:**Tai-Danae Bradley,*The Brouwer Fixed Point Theorem*on*PBS’ Infinite Series*.- Communicating mathematics through art: Browse artwork that accompany Quanta Magazine’s articles on mathematics.
- Jordan Ellenberg, Outward-Facing Mathematics: A Pitch.
- Steven Strogatz, Writing about Mathematics for the Perplexed and Traumatized.
- Kira Hamman and Francis Su, Reach the World: Writing Mathematical Opinion for a Post-Truth Culture. There are also some distilled notes from our workshop. And samples of op-eds by mathematicians in this folder.