Book Club: Black Stats by Monique W. Morris

Welcome to the first of the #mtbos Social-Justice/Racial-Equity/Let’s-All-Read-a-Darn-Book-Club posts!

Be sure to join or pop into the twitter chat THURSDAY, OCTOBER 5TH 7PM CST, using #blackstats

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Seriously, we want you there. Even if you didn’t finish the book. Join!!! (Also, as I have never hosted one of these things, if you know how to do that or can give me some pointers… please do. I have no idea what I’m doing….but I’m excited nonetheless.)

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#CharlottesvilleCurriculum

I’m mostly  housing this here to record them for myself, but if it’s of any help to any of you then all the better! There’s probably a fair amount of overlap – I’m not vetting everything as I put it here, but if I don’t get the links together, I’ll almost definitely not get around to sifting through them anyhow.  Please add stuff in the comments! 

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A Love Letter to TMC (few facts, lotsa feelings)

So. I’m now back from TMC (Twitter Math Camp) and am prepared to vomit my thoughts onto this blog. In absolutely no particular order, here they are:

I am wildly impressed by the wisdom of the MTBoS (Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere) community. 

It’s getting just ridiculous. It would have been an utterly reasonable thing for me to go about the whole conference slack-jawed at the most recent brilliance shared with me. From Grace Chen‘s passionate truth-bombs about how algorithms can perpetuate systemic racism (lobbed from a serene, thoughtful exterior) to Glenn Waddell‘s “subversive as fuck” (direct quote from him) insight into the power of how words impact our community (try replacing the word “guys” with “gals”, and you’ll get the gist of his talk), all of MTBoS and TMC humble me with their excellence and dedication to mathematical exploration and teaching.

I am so grateful for the generosity of the MTBoS community. 

Edmund Harriss made my year by designing a brand new curvahedra piece and bringing all of the pieces for us to attempt a hyperdodecahedron curvahedra build.

We got to stage 3 and while there was much mockery over my enthusiasm, it was not dampened. And SO MANY people joined in to help make it!!! Joey, Emma, Chris, Andrew, Kent, Bob, Sean, Justin, Christopher, Henry, Marsha, (and many others that just aren’t in any of the pictures I took) all pitched in and it was fantastic. There are few words to describe my joy about this build. I love math, I love art, and I love people who also love those things. This project pulled all of those together and my heart nearly burst from joy.

The generosity doesn’t stop there, though. During my talk about the Mathematicians Project (via Matt VaudreyJohn Stevens volunteered himself and Jedidiah to make an AwesomeTable for the Mathematicians Project.

And THEY JUST SAT DOWN AND STARTED. Seriously. Sessions ended, and the two of the sat down for an hour or so and started building it. Unbelievable. So generous. Basically turning my mathematician list into a searchable database. Here’s a screenshot of what’s coming… Get excited! awesome table

I am awed by the welcoming nature of the MTBoS community.

There’s been a lot of talk about #iteachmath and #mtbos, and I’m not diving into that debate beyond saying that I think everyone’s heart is in the right place and that’s fantastic. And THAT is the core of my experience with the MTBoS. At the very end of the conference, Lisa asked us to think about why we think TMC is so different (and let’s be honest, just plain BETTER) than other conferences, and David Butler, my personal hero, stood up with gusto and said “Everyone is worthy to present here.” Brought tears to my eyes. And it’s true. There is NEVER a question as to whether you or your friend or that person on the other side of the room has something to contribute. It’s assumed. And sought. I had a friend ask me if TMC is clique-y at all, and after a second of thought I said that sure, there are definitely groups of people who tend to hang out more. BUT BUT BUT… There is absolutely NO EXCLUSION. If you walk up to any group of people at TMC, you will be welcomed with open arms, a hug and a compliment. Seriously. There is such a concerted effort on behalf of the organizing committee to welcome people that it infects everyone else and the whole conference is spent with everyone actively engaging everyone else.

I am hopeful about TMC and MTBoS addressing equity.

I think about equity a lot. Last year, my advanced classes were overwhelmingly white and my non-advanced classes were decidedly more colorful. And no one was more aware of that than my students. I’m here for them and equity is what they care about, thus equity is what I care about. I have a long way to go on the equity train, but I am starting to recognize just how white all of education is, and TMC is no exception. I also would speculate that the schools represented by the teachers present tend toward majority white students, but I have zero evidence on that. I also have zero evidence on the public/private divide, but it seemed like a lot of private schools were present. Maybe I was hyper aware of people saying they worked at private schools because that’s not my experience.

All that said… I heard a lot of conversations about equity and the TMC board seems ready to tackle the issue. I will contribute by proposing sessions centered on equity and being present for those discussions.

TMC is such an excellent place to do math(art).

I realize that among the tweeps who know me, I have developed a bit of a reputation for getting hysterically excited over math. And one of the reasons I love TMC so much is that it is at TMC that I can find others to match my enthusiasm. I had so much stinking fun with Justin Aion, Suzanne von Oy, Sean Sweeney, Wendy Menard, James Cleveland & the others in the ExeterMath morning session. I mean, I knew that optimal sphere packing was going to be and excellent problem, but I didn’t realize it was going to be THAT excellent. For those interested, know that concave cubes/octagons are going to be prominent in your solving.

I also love that there was so much art getting passed around. People were showing off crochet and sculpture and patterns they’d discovered and it was just excellent. Plus Justin brought his hexagons and I fell in love.

 

I’m sure that I’m missing a whole lot of things, but it’s half a week later and I hadn’t posted this so here I go. I may dig deeper into some of the sessions in future posts, but at least I’ll get this out there.

Is the algorithm for How-Old.net Racially Biased?

So, at TMC (Twitter Math Camp) I had the privilege of attending two separate talks that got me wondering. First was Grace Chen’s absolutely phenomenal Keynote, “The Politics(?) of Mathematics Teaching”. In it, she mentioned that the age of black children is often overestimated by 5 years.

Later, Bob Lochel shared the hilarious website how-old.net  Upload/take a picture and it will estimate the age of people in the photo. The whole room had a great time playing with this. I personally (actually 32 years old) received everything from 26-42 as an age, depending on the picture.

Recalling Grace’s talk, I thought I might investigate. My boyfriend’s niece is Haitian and has very dark skin. She’s absurdly adorable and 5 years old. My nephew is white and has very light skin. He is ALSO absurdly adorable and 5 years old. 2017-07-08 10.34.48

Sure enough, how-old.net did a good job with my nephew and greatly overestimated the age of my niece.

This matters. Although it’s a silly website, by overestimating the age of black children, and seeing white children as more innocent, we perpetuate racism. I can’t say it better than Robin Bernstein did in his article, so go read that. (Pointed out to me, naturally, by Grace Chen.)

Knowing I needed more data points, I started entering a ton of photos and recording the information. If you would like to help out, head over to how-old.net and add the data to this quick google form! I’ll update the graph. Below are the current results.

On the x-axis are the people’s actual ages in the photos. On the y-axis is the age shown on how-old.net. The diagonal line shows x=y (or if how-old.net got it right). It’s color coded by race. What do you notice? What do you wonder? Anything else we should investigate? (Add in comments!)

How old net graph

For what it’s worth, Emma Veach also happened to find this gem on the same day!