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2012-09-26 07:49

Mathematics as a fundamental component of human culture


With the ambition of altering the way mathematics can be taught at universities, Anders Bengtsson, from the University College of Borås, has set out on a journey by car through the USA. The aim is to investigate the teaching of mathematics, and everyone can follow Anders' journey by reading his blog.

Anders BengtssonAnders Bengtsson, who teaches at the School of Engineering at the University College of Borås, has just started on a project, actually a road trip, in the US. In an attempt to  contribute to the innovation of prevailing teaching methods, he will be visiting thirteen colleges on his journey in order to study, discuss and gain inspiration. As part of his project, both during and after his journey,  Anders will be writing a blog in his own personal style. Named  ”Mathematics as a Humanism”,  the blog will provide continuous reports on the progress of his project. It also contains challenging queries and opportunities for comments and discussion.

”I will be visiting various Liberal Arts Colleges in the North Eastern part of the USA, famous for their high standards of tuition. They do not offer profession-oriented courses, but rather programmes that Europeans would recognise  as ”generally educational”, ”interdisciplinary”, ”broadening and deepening”, ”promoting democratic and civil rights”, ”encouraging critical  thinking”, etc.

What Anders refers to can be summarised by the term Liberal Arts, a concept which has not quite been integrated into Swedish educational policy, but is commonly applied in North America.

On his journey, Anders is to visit thirteen Liberal Arts Colleges which have all responded positively when contacted. (See list below). Having formulated his own questions and hypotheses, he considers doing pedagogical research the main object of the journey. ”As regards what kind of answers to expect, I choose not to speculate ...”.

A subject in its own right

”I would like to see a return to mathematics as a subject in its own right, a subject which is a fundamental part of human culture. In brief, mathematics as a humanism”. The idea is not new, really, as it has been debated over decades, particularly in the US. What is new about my project is that I want to understand how to ”move from word to deed”. How ought courses to be planned in order to inspire learning that rests on a solidly serious view of mathematics as a form of humanism? My aim - to make the teaching of mathematics both more successful and more fun for everyone, for teachers and students alike”.

During his trip Anders will visit:

Beloit College, Wisconsin
Carleton College and Macalester College, Minnesota
Oberlin College, Ohio
Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College and Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania
Skidmore College, New York
Bennington College, Vermont
Bates College, and Colby College, Maine
Wellesly College and Amherst College, Massachusetts

Link to blog:

http://libartinspmath.wordpress.com