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School of Mathematical Sciences

Diversifying the Maths Curriculum at Queen Mary

Learn more about the School's recent EDI project Diversifying the Maths Curriculum and hear from the team that made it happen. 

Group of teachers facing a blackboard with their backs to the camera

Let’s try something here...

Without giving it too much thought, try and name 5 well-known mathematicians.

All done?

If you could name 5 mathematicians, that’s a great start but probably not a surprise if you're on Queen Mary's Maths website. But now let’s take a closer look at who came to mind.

How many were men?
How many were white?
How many were from the Global North?

Most of them?

Diversifying the Maths Curriculum

In a bid to help diversify the teaching curriculum in the School of Mathematical Sciences, our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead, Dr Claudia Garetto, organised a research project titled “Diversifying the Maths Curriculum”. During July and August, a small group of PhD students and postdoctoral researchers spent the summer researching Mathematicians from around the world and compiled their findings into a useful resource for educators.  

Who is featured? 

The document produced contains 56 biographies of prominent mathematicians from the past and present, with an emphasis on mathematicians from minority groups. The research team approached this project through the lenses of race, ethnicity, indigeneity, religion, gender, sexual orientation and disability, among other protected characteristics. The result is a 70 page resource which really showcases the diversity of our field.  

How can we use it in teaching?

The document provides a useful index of mathematicians organised by subject area and their corresponding identity/ies. It also makes concrete suggestions of how these mathematicians can be incorporated into teaching. There is a list of undergraduate and postgraduate Maths modules taught at Queen Mary and beside each of these is a list of mathematicians that academics can include in their teaching. This is an invaluable resource for all teaching staff that are keen to show the diversity of Mathematics and teach students about lesser-known mathematicians that have contributed to the field. 

We caught up with the team of researchers to learn more about the project and their involvement.


Where did the idea for this project come from?
The idea came from a similar project run by Dr Tippu Sheriff in Chemistry. We have a very diverse cohort of students here at Queen Mary and it is important to make them feel represented. There are excellent mathematicians who do not follow the standard image of a white European man with a beard. It is time to give them the right visibility they deserve. 
Dr Claduia Garetto, Reader in Mathematics and EDI Lead

Who is your favourite mathematician featured and why?
That's a difficult question.... I don't think I have one particular favourite, but a few people did stand out more than others. On one hand, I am already a big fan of Eugenia Cheng and Nalini Joshi so it's very exciting to see them featured. On the other hand, it's really nice to see a few names of people who don't have traditional academic careers but still use/d their maths in important ways, like Thomas Fuller, Martha Haynes, Kelly Miller, Ruth Fairclough, Katherine Johnson, Mary Sommerville, Sian Lewis or Audrey Tang.
Adam Onus, PhD Student

How do you hope this resource will be used?
I hope that this resource will be used in the lectures and presentation as a supplement material. Some biographies have the interesting stories which inspire the students.
Bolys Sabitbek, Postdoctoral Research Assistant

Why was it important for you to be involved in this project?
I was keen to be involved in this project because I think its goal of helping to make QMUL's mathematics community more inclusive is both vital and pressing. Students should feel not only comfortable in their learning environment but also reflected in the material they are absorbing, and we hope what we've begun will increase the diversity of representation of contributors to mathematics, both historically and in the present day.
Christo Morison, PhD Student

What else can we do to showcase the diversity of our maths community?
Provide even more spaces of visibility to these minority groups, for example by creating a series of short interviews with members of staff (or also students!) about their journey in mathematics.
María Pintado Serrano, PhD Student

A big thank you to the entire team involved in this project, Adam, Bolys, Claudia, Christo, Evelyn, Julio and María. We really appreciate all of your hard work towards making our curriculum more inclusive.

The findings of this research project will be shared at the upcoming Bag-Lunch education seminar on 12th October at 13:00. Any staff from the School of Mathematical Sciences that would like to attend this seminar can find full details here.



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