Kettering University announced a new “Math for Social Justice” elective will address climate change, human trafficking, elections and racial justice causes through math modeling.
The course aims to teach students how to use statistics and data to address various social justice-related topics.
The course will “open students’ eyes into the different areas of math that can model social justice issues,” said Leszek Gawarecki, chair of the university’s Math Department and one of the professors slated to teach the class, in a news release.
He cited climate change as one topic for students.
“Thinking about it, I became shocked,”Gawrecki told ABC12. “Why are we shocked? Because we all knew that data is available about climate change. The events were pretty much predictable. We know about social injustice.”
Gawarecki said he believes the course will solve insufficient “emotional discussions” where “whatever I say, anyone can say the opposite.”
In an email to The College Fix, he reiterated that mathematical models built “on real data can provide insights on the existence of systemic problems.”
Gawarecki did say, however, that math models can be built on assumptions and are not perfect.
“Mathematics-based models have their assumptions and limitations. … At the same time, they can be a powerful tool for highlighting information buried in hundreds of variables,” he said via email.
Course prerequisites include a communications course, sophomore seminar, and basic understanding of calculus and statistics.
Kettering is not the only university to offer new approaches to math topics.
Last fall, the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Wake Forest University offered a “racist and anti-racist uses of math and statistics class.”
And a statement published October 2020 by the Mathematical Association of America stated that it “is time for all members of our profession to acknowledge that mathematics is created by humans and therefore inherently carries human biases.”
“Reaching this potential in mathematics relies upon the academy and higher education engaging in critical, challenging, sometimes uncomfortable conversations about the detrimental effects of race and racism on our community. The time is now to move mathematics and education forward in pursuit of justice.”
Editor’s note: This article and its headline have been amended to clarify the class does not plan to take an advocacy approach to social justice topics, according to the university spokesperson.