Gizem Karaali completed her undergraduate studies at Boğaziçi University, Istanbul, Turkey. After receiving her Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of California Berkeley, she taught at the University of California Santa Barbara for two years. She is currently a professor of mathematics at Pomona College where she enjoys teaching a wide variety of courses and working with many interesting people. Her mathematical research is in representation theory and algebraic combinatorics. Her scholarly interests include humanistic mathematics, pedagogy, and quantitative literacy, as well as social justice implications of mathematics and mathematics education. She is an editor of the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, an associate editor of the Mathematical Intelligencer, and a senior editor of Numeracy, the flagship journal of the National Numeracy Network. Her most recent book is Mathematics and Social Justice: Resources for the College Classroom, coedited with Lily S. Khadjavi.
Historian of mathematics Judith Grabiner tells us that mathematics in a given culture solves problems that the culture thinks are important. In this framework, students of modern mathematics throughout our K-16 system learn that we value the bottom line, we value minimizing cost, we value precision in military applications. It is also quite clear to them that we are not concerned with equity issues, we are not interested in differences and dynamics of power, we are not going to touch social issues in our classrooms even with a very very long pole. In this talk I describe how this paradigm is changing in today’s mathematics classrooms as well as in the broader mathematical community. The central question I address is: Does applicable math always side with the rich and the powerful? Or can it help us create a better, a more just world? In particular I share some thoughts on how an intentional focus on the social and ethical dimensions of math starting from such questions can enrich the classroom experience at all levels of the curriculum and what it might mean to teach math for social justice.
This lecture is part of the Pomona College Fall Faculty Lecture series.