Hey "I-Team"! Happy Black History. I hope this month finds you safe and warm during this artic blast that we've been experiencing over the last couple of weeks. With temperatures plummeting below zero in some places, and power outages in other parts of the country, February has made me reflect on the fact that both math and science go hand-in-hand. As I watched the local news to get updates about the amount of snowfall and freezing temperatures, it was interesting to see the weatherman use graphs to compare the present temperature to record breaking temperatures from the past. That made me think about the fact that sometimes the best way to learn about the present is to take a look into the past. When considering the history of math and science, it's impossible to overlook the great minds of the people of the ancient Sumerians. Yet if we were to rely solely on information provided by some historians, archaeologists, and even psychologists, they would have us to believe that the world was non-existent, or better yet uncivilized prior to ancient Greece and ancient Rome. Some of those historians would also lead us to believe that a systematic study of mathematics began in the 6th Century B.C. While it is unclear what systems were overlooked in the centuries prior to that, it is clear based on counternarratives told by other historians such as Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., archaeologists such as Anna Agbe-Davies, and psychiatrists such as Dr. Francis Cress Welsing that civilization predates the ancient Greeks and Romans. So as you can see, math and science have also been around since the very beginning.
It is noted that the ancient Egyptians used the number system in practical ways, much like it is used today. The number system during that time was used for counting and solving written math problems. It was also used for problems that involved multiplication and fractions (Ahmes, 1550 B.C.)
Science also played a major role in ancient times as it was used to determine natural patterns such as tessellations (geometric patterns). When you look at the patterns in the tiles of the backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom, be reminded of that fact that similar patterns were studied by the those in the ancient world. In astronomy, the ancient people were able to calculate time, develop calendars, and even almanacs. Of course these things are still used in modern times. When considering the fact that women as well as Black and Brown people make up about 27% of the STEM workforce, you have to wonder what have those in the field done to attract these underserved populations. One of the key pieces that had been missing for so long was representation. It goes without saying but when you see someone who looks like you and shares similar experiences as yours, you typically gravitate towards those individuals. When educators, scientists, and college professors design lessons in ways that are inclusive, engaging, and equitable, this opens the door for more students to take an interest in STEM lessons/careers that were once uninviting or intangible. Now will this close the achievement gap overnight? Probably not. Will this approach open the door of opportunities for girls, women, or Black and Brown students to take an interest in STEM? Possibly...
Under this week's Intentional Toolkit I provide a few resources that delve into suggestions for promoting STEM in schools. As always, I hope you find these resources useful. So as you can see history is very profound and it has a way of shaping generations. As we progress in this century, let's invest in learning about the contributions that great minds of the past played in shaping the world as we know it today. In doing such, this will keep us in "tune" with where we are headed. Until next time, go out there and be GREAT!
The rhind papyrus and ancient egyptian math
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