Monday, April 23, 2012

Drawing new circles

The folks at the First Unitarian Society of Schenectady celebrate this poem:
He drew a circle that shut me out 
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win: 
We drew a circle that took him in! 
— "Outwitted" — Edwin Markham
This poem resonates with me in many ways, but today I want to focus on the way it connects to my vision for guerrilla math circles.

Many people feel "shut out" of the mathematical community.  They see math as a superpower that others have but that they hopelessly lack.  They can't imagine math as a joyful and empowering activity, as hard yet rewarding work.  They see the world as divided into non-intersecting circles of "People who can do math," and "People who can't do math."  They place themselves squarely in the latter and can't imagine that they could ever find joy and empowerment in visiting the other circle.  They may even be inclined to disparage or make fun of others who claim to enjoy math.

Can we find a way to draw math circles in a way that draws those folks in? I think we can.  That is where my concept of "Guerrilla Math Circles" come in.

To be continued ...

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