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Math, Culture, and Popular Media

Though math is applied in the real-world, it is also "found" in the real-world...i.e. It is integrated, implied, or intuited into objects or events...but not in an applied sense.

A broad examples is the presence of mathematics in popular culture. Previously, I reviewed the text Mathematics in Popular Culture: Essays on Appearances in Film, Fiction, Games, Television, and Other Media with this "presence" by Editors Jessica Skyar and Elizabeth Skylar. It is good text, but more as background than of direct use in the classroom.

Similar in focus but more classroom friendly is Michaele Chappell and Denisse Thompson's Math, Culture, and Popular Media (2009). Again, it avoids some of the scholarly perspective (which can also be helpful!).

The book has 90+ investigations (on an included CD-ROM) separated into several broad sections:

  • Overview of why/how media can "weave" culture and mathematics together
  • Use of 31 different media resources to support (and motivate) 85 investigations
  • Discussion on how the investigations can be used both across disciplines and to integrate multiple cultures.
Throughout, the focus is on supplementing the teaching of middle school mathematics, though certainly some of the investigations could be adapted to the high school level. Each investigation includes a summary of the media resource, the math topics addressed, perspectives on the cultural context, and a teacher commentary.

Another helpful feature "perhaps" is a matrix that cross-references the many investigations in terms of mathematixcal content strand, culture connections, and media type (e.g film, literature, internet). The term "perhaps" is used in that too often these are forced groupings and reflect author's biases...I usually like to just jump in and prefer to form my own categorizations.

The book is an enjoyable text to browse...you will need to decide if that translates into useful. My hope: The text is one more effort that helps a broad readership recognize and accept mathematics as playing an important part of popular culture.