The InforMath project is funded by an NSF grant of SDSU’s Mathematics Education Professor Ricardo Nemirovsky. The project seeks avenues for transforming cultural perceptions of mathematics in ways that broaden learners’ access to the discipline. The project addresses an issue of central importance to the field of STEM education: widespread cultural images of mathematics as an inscrutable domain available only to a small number of people of exceptional intelligence or innate capacity. Widely circulating cultural notions of mathematics as difficult and esoteric inflect many learners’ experiences with this discipline and ultimately have the unfortunate potential to discourage participation in or identification with mathematics. To address this issue, this project explores two conjectures: 1. Educational interventions that (a) merge mathematics and the arts and (b) engage learners’ bodies, through movement, interaction, and multimodal perception, can productively broaden cultural views for what is regarded as mathematics.
The project is based on a partnership between SDSU, three museums in Balboa Park: Mingei International Museum, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, and the Museum of Photographic Arts, as well as the Boys’ and Girls’ Club of Southeast San Diego.
Current work and programs conducted by InforMath include:
1. A new exhibition at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center entitled “Taking Shape” is open to the public. The exhibition brings together art and mathematics, the latter focused on topology concepts. The structure made out of packing tape is large enough for visitors to walk inside to explore its layout. It includes three areas inspired by the following surfaces of: 1) Torus, 2) Schwarz P, and 3) Pair-of-Pants. Working areas associated with these topologies are being setup.
2. A program on basket weaving and curvature has been conducted at the Mingei International Museum and the Boys’ and Girls’ Club of Southeast San Diego. Children from Chulavista who have volunteered to enroll worked three sessions at the Mingei and three at their after school facilities. They explored the current exhibition “Made in America,” created woven forms, and sewed fabric bowls.
3. A new exhibition at the Museum of Photographic Arts is in preparation. Its theme is 3D photography and the mathematics of depth perception.
4. A new program on Music and Mathematics is going to start in April. Children from the Boys’ and Girls’ Club of Southeast San Diego will be transported weekly to the Reuben H, Fleet Science Center. They will use a new exhibit called “Dance Math” to develop mathematical ways of representing dance and rhythm. The program will end with a public performance combining drumming, dance, and chanting.