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New Kettering University class uses numbers to quantify hot button issues

Math and Social Justice class will look at human trafficking, climate change, racial justice and voting statistics
Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 7:20 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - Kettering University is tackling social justice and other hot button issues using math in the classroom.

This fall, Kettering will offer a course called Math and Social Justice. It’s designed to help quantify some of the social issues America seen over the last year.

A lot has happened this last year. Aside from the coronavirus pandemic, wildfires, social justice, racial equality, immigration, elections and voting -- just to name a few -- have created deep discussion around the United States.

For Leszek Gawarecki, a mathematics professor at Kettering, all of these issues got him thinking one day.

“Thinking about it, I became shocked,” he said. “Why are we shocked? Because we all knew that data is available about climate change. The events were pretty much predictable. We know about social injustice.”

So his thought was, why not use this data to tell a story and paint a picture to quantitatively express what’s happening in the world and how Americans can make it better.

So he went to Babak Elahi, a professor of liberal studies at Kettering. They both decided to create the Math For Social Justice course.

The class will divided into four modules: Human trafficking, climate change, racial justice and voting.

The human trafficking portion, for example, will consist of three parts:

  • Part 1 will familiarize students with the context and laying the groundwork and understanding of what human trafficking is.
  • Part 2 will be more math heavy with data and statistics surrounding the topic.
  • Part 3 will consist of taking that derived data and telling a story with it.

Elahi and Gawarecki hope students will take what they’ve learned and apply it to existing research projects across the country.

“By the end of the class, the students have a sense that the liberal arts material that they learned and the math material that they learned give them a sense of agency -- not that they can just understand this, but they can do something about it,” Elahi said.

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