Note: This was originally made as an announcement to my MAT224 class, but I am making it public so that colleagues can adapt this announcement for their own classes.
Today is the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This is an important day to honour residential school survivors, their families and communities and reflect on Canada’s legacy of residential schools, colonialism, and genocide.
There are events happening both on campus and off:
Mathematics was one of the subjects taught in residential schools, and survivors report that it was used for evil. As a math instructor, I have a particular duty to reconciliation, by not only ensuring that math is not used for evil, but that it is used for good.
Some resources to help you learn more about indigenous mathematics and ways of knowing:
MySSP provides U of T international students with immediate and/or ongoing confidential, 24 hour support at no cost to you.
List of mental health resources is also included at that link.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
This term I’m teaching (and coordinating) a 1200 person Integral Calculus course at UTM. Term Test 1 went surprisingly well for students, and Term Test 2 was an unqualified success (very high average, lots of people got 100% on the test).
This lead to the following (paraphrased) question on our course message board:
Is the exam going to be a lot more difficult because the averages on the term tests were so high?
I took the time to think about exactly why I don’t like adjusting the difficulty of exams based on students doing well previously. Here’s the answer I posted on our message board.
Every summer, Canadian undergraduate students in mathematics meet at the Canadian Undergraduate Mathematics Conference (CUMC). Hundreds of students attend, and it gives them a chance to meet other people excited by mathematics. Students are also encouraged to give a short presentation on a math topic that interests them.
In the summer of 2018, while I was a Post Doc at the University of Calgary, we hosted a “mini pre-CUMC conference” for undergrads to give their presentations ahead of time. It was so successful that I ran an expanded version of this at the University of Toronto for CUMC 2019.
I think these events and workshops are important for all students, but in particular it helps break down barriers to entry for marginalized students. With that in mind, I’m sharing my resources, thoughts and experiences about our pre-CUMC conference with the hope that other universities and colleges in Canada will benefit.
In November 2018, 41 of the top researchers in Ramsey theory met at the BIRS in Banff for the Unifying Themes in Ramsey Theory conference. By all measures the conference was a big success. What makes Ramsey theory so special is that it has wide ranging impacts in diverse fields in mathematics. The participants gave talks showing how Ramsey theory has impacted fields like graph theory, topological dynamics, set theory, model theory, operator algebras, logic and statistics.
Since I have a somewhat broad base of knowledge in Ramsey theory, I tried my best to give a short description of each of the speakers in language that makes sense to me. My view is biased, and my intent is always to show off the amazing work everyone is doing. I hope nothing comes across as negative or critical; that is not my intent.
I will be participating as a trainer for Canada’s 2018 IMO Summer Training camp. I’m giving a session on graph theory. As I prepared my notes I found many resources online that already cover some aspects of graph theory. So here are those resources:
This is an in-depth description of the basic combinatorial and geometric techniques in graph theory. It is a very thorough and helpful document with many Olympiad level problems for each topic. (No solutions are given.)
As I general rule I find thinking about math pedagogy deeply rewarding. Teaching a technical and beautiful discipline like math is difficult to do well. Students come from all sorts of backgrounds, the material can be challenging, and there are tons of moving parts in a course. It’s a challenge that I find exhilarating.
On the other hand, I find the act of reading the scholarship of math education to be dreadful and unpleasant. It is filled with jargon and hero-worship.
That being said, I’ve been extremely lucky to have great mentors and colleagues to bounce ideas off of. I’ve collected some of this advice in a Reddit post, which I’ll recreate here.