Public Math

This is Molly.

This is Chris.

Molly is a math leader who lives in Vancouver, WA and started a project called Math Anywhere. Chris lives in Chicago where he supervises secondary math for the Chicago Public Schools and leaves math in places for others to find.

I met each of them through the work of this blog, and through Math On-A-Stick. We agreed that it would be fun to have some together this summer to brainstorm and prototype new forms of creative, playful math engagement for people in unexpected places.

One thing to know about me if we ever have the chance to work together is that I don’t work small or slow. One year I got the idea for Math On-A-Stick; the next year it was up and running at full scale at the nation’s second-largest state fair.

That tendency of mine turned an afternoon with Molly and Chris into a 48-hour extravaganza we’re calling the Public Math Gathering. With the generous support of Desmos and CPM, we added seven more amazing folks to our guest list and got started planning.

This is Morgan.

Morgan teaches at South High School in Minneapolis and runs a math circle at the Rondo branch of the St Paul Public Library each summer. We brought Morgan on board to help us plan and execute this work.

This is the whole team, including the four named above and our friends Aeriale Johnson, Manju Connolly, Lamia Abukhadra, Andrés Lemus-Spont, Amy Nolte, and Lara Jasien.

Together, this team includes designers, artists, elementary and secondary teachers, researchers, writers, and teacher educators.

Here’s how we have spent our time.

On Friday evening, we walked the boundaries of the Midway, Macalester-Groveland, and Frogtown neighborhoods of Saint Paul looking for opportunities for mathematical provocations. Here are some things we noticed and talked about.

 

On Saturday, we volunteered as a group at Math On-A-Stick, and then went off-site to do two pieces of work:

(1) Break down and critique our experiences at Math On-A-Stick, and

(2) Design new math provocations for new contexts.

Our reflections on Math On-A-Stick involved these questions:

  • Who was there?
  • Who was not there?
  • How did you notice those who there engaging with the materials and the space?
  • What are the affordances of the Minnesota State Fair as a place for designing math interactions?
  • What are the limitations?

Our design work followed from this invitation:

Let’s design place-based opportunities for [X] to engage in math provocations that are [Y]. 

We filled in many possibilities for X and for Y. For some of us, X might be children or teenagers or families or the math anxious. And Y might be delightful or memorable or identity-changing or surprising.

We moved on to prototyping, and we’ll test drive some new ideas at the Fair on Sunday morning.