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← Mathematics: a foundation for a fair and modern society | Lorella Carimali | TEDxLivorno

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Showing Revision 60 created 08/24/2019 by Michele Gianella.

  1. I have to "break the ice".
  2. And what can a teacher do,
    in order to break the ice,
  3. but start an oral test?
  4. Are you afraid?
  5. No, OK, this time I won't go ahead.
  6. But I really want to break the ice
  7. doing a mini-survey in order to know you,
    and letting you know me.
  8. Who does love Mathematics,
    please raise his/her hand.
  9. I am almost at home.
  10. Who was proficient
    in Mathematics, back then?
  11. Eh, a little bit less.
  12. Who does think, proficiency in math
    is something one is born with?
  13. All right, I will keep this in mind.
  14. Now I know something about you,
    I introduce myself.
  15. I think that Mathematics is the foundation
  16. of a fair, just and democratic society.
  17. For that reason,
  18. I took this beatiful sentence
    of Nobel Prize Malala,
  19. and I rephrased this way:
  20. "A male or female child,
    a teacher, a book,
  21. a pen - and Mathematics! -
    can change the world".
  22. Who does agree with me
    to add Mathematics?
  23. Oh, they decrease.
  24. Oh yes, they decrease.
  25. I often see this thing.
  26. Why?
  27. Because each of you
    would have thought:
  28. "Oh, what's math
    got to do with justice?
  29. I had a stomachache,
    the night before the math test.
  30. I did not sleep at night
    to prepare myself".
  31. Well, I instead chose to study Mathematics
  32. and to become a math teacher
  33. because it was fundamental for me
    to provide with critical tools
  34. my students, both boys and girls,
  35. in order to change this world,
    to change it for the better.
  36. And mathematics is essential to that.
  37. What I want to do with you, today,
  38. is to let you understand it
    and bring you in my journey,
  39. in order to show you the link
  40. among mathematics, justice and fairness.
  41. But I need you to come with me,
  42. trying to go beyond the horizon
  43. and to understand that we need
    a different vision of math
  44. and then a different model of mathematics.
  45. I will do it, at least
    I will try to do it,
  46. following a typical math argument.
  47. What mathematics does, first of all?
  48. It analyzes the situation,
  49. and what is the situation analysis?
  50. Let us go see what mathematics is.
  51. I do not want to say it with my own words:
  52. it would be too easy,
    and you might object, it ain't so.
  53. I do it using some statements
  54. written by my former students,
  55. leaving the high school.
  56. Then, can we see what?
  57. Chiara, now attending
    the the last year of medicine,
  58. wrote me that:
  59. "Thanks for showing me mathematics
  60. not only as a set of formulas,
    but as a way to to face life
  61. making it simpler,
    through reasoning and fantasy".
  62. The Fifth I class,
  63. is one my colleagues called
    "a desperate class".
  64. And they were wrong,
  65. because people who write
    this things, as you can see,
  66. do not lack hope,
    indeed they have a lot of it.
  67. Watch out:
  68. "Thanks for giving us the freedom
  69. and for teaching us
    to think and to live".
  70. The last one is Bianca.
  71. Bianca is at the the last year of Physics,
    and she wrote me this:
  72. "Thanks for giving me eyes
    to look for new lands".
  73. When I read these sentences, I said,
  74. really, with my teaching hours of math,
  75. my integrals, my stuff,
    did I inadvertently do that?
  76. Well, then they showed me a way
    to go ahead, further
  77. and reconsider this teaching approach.
  78. But why mathematics?
  79. Mathematics in my students' words,
  80. freedom and a liberating force.
  81. What did they write?
  82. it's a powerful tool
  83. which enables us to be what we want to be,
  84. beyond stereotypes and prejudices.
  85. Look at, they wrote this:
  86. math is life, it is a way
    to simplify our life.
  87. But, why it is that?
    Who ever told us that?
  88. Daniel Kahneman tell us that.
  89. Daniel Kahneman is a psychologist,
  90. Nobel prize in 2002 for Economics.
  91. He studied decision theory.
  92. If you think about it,
    every moment we decide.
  93. A statistical research affirms
  94. that in a typical day,
    we decide about 35.000 times.
  95. Are we sure that those decisions
  96. are ours only, or are somewhat biased?
  97. Today, you decided to come here.
  98. If you had not come here,
  99. you would likely not be
    who you will be when you leave.
  100. Therefore this is a fundamental point.
  101. But how are we taking
    all these decisions?
  102. Most part of decisions,
    Daniel Kahneman says,
  103. are taken on the basis
    of what he calls "System one".
  104. Which is a fast system, it acts quickly;
  105. but it is a stereotyped one,
  106. mostly based on emotions and memories,
  107. what our "belly" tell us.
  108. But this decision -
  109. are we sure that the strategies we take
  110. and the relevant decisions
    we take with this "system one"
  111. are really ours,
    unfettered by stereotypes?
  112. Let me show you a very simple stereotype:
  113. if you meet a man -
  114. with a woman it would be much truer,
  115. with a gender conplication
    I do not want to put in -
  116. and you ask this man, What is jour job?
  117. And he answers, I am a thinker.
  118. What do you think he does?
  119. Most of the people say,
    A philosopher; A writer -
  120. my student says, Nothing;
    but let's put that aside.
  121. If instead he specifies,
  122. I am a mathematician
    working at Geneva CERN.
  123. And nobody ever guesses
    the true answer.
  124. Because there's the stereotype
  125. that mathematicians, scientists and so on
  126. are simply technicians,
  127. and they do not do an intellectual job.
  128. Then Daniel Kahneman tells us
  129. that if we are to take
    thoughtful decisions,
  130. we must activate
    what he calls "System Two".
  131. Which is a system, as he says,
  132. educated and educable, rational, logical,
  133. but slow.
  134. Therefore, if we want our decisions
    to be nobody's ones but ours,
  135. we must activate and train
    this second system.
  136. And make it able to check
  137. whether System One's solutions
    are indeed the right ones.
  138. Well, this System Two, in my opinion,
  139. is just another name
    for mathematical thinking.
  140. That is, before a problem: analise data;
  141. tell the key ones from secondary ones;
  142. set up a startegy; test it;
  143. reset it if it proves wrong;
    and go straight to the target.
  144. This is the mathematical thinking,
  145. and this give us the freedom
    that my students told about,
  146. therefore it has to become fast.
  147. All right, but you still may say me:
    "What's fairness got to do with it?"
  148. So let's go see what fairness is.
  149. Let us consider Ulpianus:
  150. Ulpianus was one
    of the greatest Roman jurists,

  151. perhaps the greatest one,
  152. and he defines justice as:
  153. "The constant, perennial will
  154. to give everybody
    what they're entitled to".
  155. Sen, Indian philosopher and economist
  156. who deals with civil rights,
  157. what does he says to us?
  158. "The concept of inequality
  159. does not consist only
    in income inequality,
  160. but mostly in an inequality
  161. of opportunities, of possibility,
    of choice, of individual freedom.
  162. It is crucial, for each individual,
  163. to have the freedom to decide
    how to shape himself".
  164. So, if a State must give
    to each and every one of us
  165. the freedom to become
    what they mean to be,
  166. and the same opportunities,
  167. it means that a mathematical method
  168. has to bring the mathematical competence
    to each and every one of us.
  169. So the teaching method of mathematics
  170. has to be based, first of all,
  171. on that - I apologize
    for mathematical jargon -
  172. on that is a fundamental axiom:
  173. "No one girl, no one boy left behind,
    in mathematics and life".
  174. Because if only one person is left out
  175. I miss one person
  176. and therefore the State turns out to be
    an unfair and iniquitous State.
  177. But then you will say me:
  178. "How can we do? Any second chance?"
  179. We must go - remember what
    we told at the beginning -
  180. beyond the horizon,
  181. think something
    even if it is not yet here.
  182. We must change the teacher profile,
  183. and the way we teach Math.
  184. So what do we do?
  185. Do a different thing,
    which is the second axiom:
  186. "Mathematics is for everyone and all".
  187. Therefore there are not -
    that's why I asked to raise your hands -
  188. there are no gifted or denied persons;
  189. only untrained persons exist,
  190. or ones that are biased by stereotypes.
  191. Who does tell us so? Carol Dweck:
  192. Carol Dweck is a Stanford-based
    cognitive psychologist,
  193. a worldwide reference
    of cognitive and social psychology.
  194. She tell us that there are only
  195. family and school conditions
  196. which somehow affect talent development.
  197. So what should you do?
  198. The teacher, she still tells us -
  199. and she gives advice
    to parents and teachers,
  200. which is this one:
  201. give always challenging cases
  202. to your sons, daughters or students,
  203. let them delve into that.
  204. And reward the commitment,
    not the performance,
  205. because only in challenging cases
    this approach will develop.
  206. Because if mathematics
    is a way of thinking,
  207. a way of facing life,
  208. I must train math thinking
    as if I [were] in a gym;
  209. then I have to put my muscles at work,
  210. I have to develop the capability
  211. to guess, imagine, design,
    to infer and check,
  212. then measure and quantify
    phenomena and real facts.
  213. This is the important thing.
  214. So challenging cases, why?
  215. Because, no matter what,
  216. mistakes are not a limit,
  217. but an opportunity.
  218. An opportunity for reflection and growth.
  219. So I showed you
  220. that mathematics goes hand in hand
    with justice and fairness.
  221. But then a last challenge remains
  222. that I'd like to take with you,
  223. which is this:
  224. Italy, and many countries,
  225. score terribly in math's
    functional illiteracy;
  226. so math, if our State
    is a fair and just one,
  227. has to enter in all the houses.
  228. Not only in boys and girls,
    but in all of us, in all adults.
  229. This is our last challenge,
  230. let mathematics spread everywhere.
  231. Maybe somebody is thinking now,
  232. this is an utopia,
    it will never happen,
  233. and a mathematician as I am
  234. I say that it is just about
    finding the right strategy,
  235. because, in the words
    of the great Adriano Olivetti,
  236. "The word utopia is a shortcut
  237. to dismiss what you're not willing,
    able or brave enough to do.
  238. A dream is always a dream,
  239. until you do not start from somewhere.
  240. Then it becomes a purpose,
    something extremely greater.
  241. Today, Lorella's dream
  242. can only be achieved
    with your help, also.
  243. Let's then dream toghether.
  244. Thank you.
  245. (Applause)