Since I am new at my college, I was told that it is expected that all new faculty members are on a committee. Apparently I found out that message a little too late because when I asked if there were any committees that were still open to join, there were none except for the college’s Multicultural Initiatives committee.
I didn’t know much about this committee except for what I had heard at department meetings. We have some faculty in the math department who are all about integrating multicultural initiatives and service learning into the classroom and we have other faculty who could care less. I always wanted to try integrating some sort of project into my classes, but I wasn’t sure where to start.
Joining the Multicultural Initiatives committee helped to give me a different perspective and helped me to realize that we’re not in a want-to-try situation. We are in a do-or-die situation. Students need to have some sort of personal connect to the material and having students examine the material from a multicultural, historical, or a service learning perspective is just one of the many ways that we can help to bring the material alive for our students. And if we don’t do everything that we can to help enlighten our students, we are actually doing our students quite a disservice. This is how the idea of having my students create poster presentations on Indian Mathematicians for my college’s Library Fair began.
You can see some of my student’s poster presentations by clicking on the link.
My students loved this project. I had it structured so that students had to turn in a proposal by the end of the second week of class giving a brief biography of the Indian Mathematician that they wanted to create their poster about. At the end of the fifth week of class, students had to give me a sketch of their poster, including at least 10 facts about the person and 5 pictures. And about 1 week before the posters were to be put on display in the library, the students had to submit their poster so that I could grade them and pick which ones should be sent to the library for the Library Fair. Yes, not every student’s poster made it into the library. My process did not weed out the students who still waited until the night before the final poster was due to create anything, but having a proposal and sketch of the poster helped most of my students.
My students told me that having a face to put to mathematics helped them to appreciate the subject matter more. They also told me that they found it interesting to read about the mathematicians that the other students had chosen to create their posters about. I’m sure that the learning benefits and lasting impact of this project on my students went far beyond what I will ever be able to see.
What would I do differently? Not much. Except for the few students who simply were not able to accept the fact that I was sticking by my grading rubric with no exception, everything went very smoothly. I’m even planning to do this project again with my students in the fall. This time I’m coordinating with the library to have my students create posters about Russian Mathematicians.