### Guest post by Megan McLean

Hi! I’m Megan McLean, a Math and Engineering teacher at Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane, Washington. I’ve been teaching for 13 years. In that time, I have taught in the US and also in South Korea, which was an amazing experience. In my former life, I was a Mechanical Engineer having gotten a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Idaho (GO VANDALS!). I became a teacher because I wanted to inspire students to see themselves as mathematicians and to help develop in others the love I have for math.

A couple years ago, I realized that whenever I would talk about the mathematicians who created the math we were doing in class, there were a lot of similarities in the people that I was displaying on the board. In my class, no two students were alike. But every mathematician I was displaying looked the same.

It was an eye-opening experience to see that the mathematicians my students chose mostly looked like them: students of color chose mathematicians who were people of color and the girls chose women mathematicians.

After that first year, I decided that I needed to expand this project to more than just the students in my class for the last couple weeks of school. I saved all the biography sheets and the presentations and shared the project with my math department, hoping to encourage them to start to share with their students that mathematicians that aren’t just Pythagoras, Euler, Newton, or Gauss.

This past summer, while working too hard to prepare for this crazy new school year, I decided to break up the monotony of quarantining with my parents and working way too hard posting a mathematician a day on my Facebook page. After a few posts, a friend told me I needed to make this project its own Instagram account and @mathematicianslooklikeallofus and #MathematiciansLookLikeAllOfUs were born.

I have no set way of how I find my posts and most are excerpts from Wikipedia. Within Wikipedia there is a subcategory called mathematicians by country, which has been super useful. Within it there are even more subcategories of mathematicians by century and women mathematicians.

I’ve also reported on the mathematician genealogy project that connects mathematicians in a family tree based on their PhD advisors. The Mathematician community is relatively small when looked at in this way with most connected to just a few!

I’ve enjoyed learning about mathematicians from around the world. I hope that by sharing with my friends, who share with their friends, and by the people who find me through my hashtag, that people will start to see that mathematicians look like all of us. It is not a field set aside just for European men in powdered wigs. Mathematicians come from all centuries, all countries, and all socioeconomic backgrounds. Mathematicians really do look like all of us!

Not long after that, I attended a talk from an engineer from Turkey. She spoke about how, as a female engineer from the Middle East, that she was often not taken seriously because she didn't “look like an engineer” (think Howard Wolowitz). She started to look into how people perceive who’s qualified in different fields and also into the people who were entering those fields. She found that when we only display stereotypes, like Howard Wolowitz, those fields tend to mostly draw people who saw themselves in those stereotypes. This got me thinking about how I wanted to start inspiring my students to see themselves as mathematicians.

The following year, after my students took their end of year exam, I decided to spend the last few weeks of school doing a mathematician project. For this project, I had the students pick from a list of mathematicians that I gave them, fill out a bio sheet, and make a presentation. They got bonus points if they dressed up and presented as their mathematician of choice.

The following year, after my students took their end of year exam, I decided to spend the last few weeks of school doing a mathematician project. For this project, I had the students pick from a list of mathematicians that I gave them, fill out a bio sheet, and make a presentation. They got bonus points if they dressed up and presented as their mathematician of choice.

It was an eye-opening experience to see that the mathematicians my students chose mostly looked like them: students of color chose mathematicians who were people of color and the girls chose women mathematicians.

After that first year, I decided that I needed to expand this project to more than just the students in my class for the last couple weeks of school. I saved all the biography sheets and the presentations and shared the project with my math department, hoping to encourage them to start to share with their students that mathematicians that aren’t just Pythagoras, Euler, Newton, or Gauss.

This past summer, while working too hard to prepare for this crazy new school year, I decided to break up the monotony of quarantining with my parents and working way too hard posting a mathematician a day on my Facebook page. After a few posts, a friend told me I needed to make this project its own Instagram account and @mathematicianslooklikeallofus and #MathematiciansLookLikeAllOfUs were born.

I have no set way of how I find my posts and most are excerpts from Wikipedia. Within Wikipedia there is a subcategory called mathematicians by country, which has been super useful. Within it there are even more subcategories of mathematicians by century and women mathematicians.

The University of Buffalo is also a great source for Mathematicians of the African Diaspora, some that aren’t even in Wikipedia. I have no set algorithm but I do try to rotate between female and male mathematicians. As well as try to mix it up by not doing just one continent or one period of time too often.

As I started posting different mathematicians, I realized that there were a lot of similar threads. In addition to posting biographies and achievements of individual mathematicians, I have also done stories on the University of Göttingen, which for a while was THE place for a mathematician to study or work. Many well known Scientists and Mathematicians have gone through the University of Göttingen.

As I started posting different mathematicians, I realized that there were a lot of similar threads. In addition to posting biographies and achievements of individual mathematicians, I have also done stories on the University of Göttingen, which for a while was THE place for a mathematician to study or work. Many well known Scientists and Mathematicians have gone through the University of Göttingen.

I’ve also reported on the mathematician genealogy project that connects mathematicians in a family tree based on their PhD advisors. The Mathematician community is relatively small when looked at in this way with most connected to just a few!

I’ve enjoyed learning about mathematicians from around the world. I hope that by sharing with my friends, who share with their friends, and by the people who find me through my hashtag, that people will start to see that mathematicians look like all of us. It is not a field set aside just for European men in powdered wigs. Mathematicians come from all centuries, all countries, and all socioeconomic backgrounds. Mathematicians really do look like all of us!

You can follow Megan's project on her blog Mathematicians Look Like all of Us.

**Further reading:**

Ashley M linked The Mathematicians Project in the comments. Because it's not clickable there, I am adding it here.

First off, this is awesome. Congrats on the great work.

ReplyDeleteThis sounds very similar to "The Mathematician Project"(https://arbitrarilyclose.com/2016/08/21/the-mathematicians-project-mathematicians-are-not-just-white-dudes/), which I and several of my colleagues have adapted and incorporated into our college math courses to have students research a mathematician and post a bio on a discussion board (online course). On that website is a link to a substantial Google Sheet of mathematicians that can be sorted by ethnicity, preferred pronouns, country of origin, etc.

Having our students discover mathematicians that look like them can help them see themselves as mathematicians. It has been a wonderful and heartwarming project for my classes and I plan to continue it into all of my future classes.

Thank you for sharing this. I'm going to add the website you mentioned into the blog post so that it is clickable.

DeleteThanks! Anything to get students excited about math is a great thing. :-)

DeleteDefinitely! And it's high time more mathematicians become common knowledge.

DeleteI am inspired

ReplyDelete