Rethinking the mathography

I’ve had my students write a mathography at the start of each year for the last three years. While they do take time to read and digest, I’ve found them to be an invaluable part of how I reach and connect with my students. They establish personal mathematical narratives in the classroom, give me a mathematical context for the young people I’m serving, and help students explore their own mathematical identities.

Because the mathography has become such a key element of my teaching, I wonder what it would look like if teachers, instead of approaching the mathography individually with their own classes, thought about the assignment more comprehensively. For example, what if high school math departments, like mine, designed a four-year mathography? What would that look like? Could kids write one “chapter” of their math autobiography each year of high school? Could each year have a different theme or have kids reflect on at their relationship with math through a different lens? What would these themes or lenses be?

As more and more math teachers turn to the mathography to raise the social consciousness of their classroom (especially those who teach at the same school), we will need to transform it from a stand-alone classroom activity to one that develops over time between classes, grade levels, and teachers. I imagine us sharing the students’ mathographies with each other from year to year, and using this collaboration to help students to discover and tell their bigger mathematical story while allowing us to gain unique insights into students that weren’t possible before. Using the mathography in this way could be a small but systematic solution to the lack of humanity and social awareness that exists in so many of our classes and curricula.


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