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Date: Tue, 21 Oct 1997 14:14:32 -0700
From: Kirby Urner
Subject: Syn-l: Math Action (MAA support?)
October 21, 1997
TO: Ivars Peterson, physics writer and on-line editor
at Science News
FR: Kirby Urner, 4D Solutions, Oregon
RE: Upcoming math show and coinciding action plan
Howdy Ivars --
Thought we might time the national action below to synchronize
with the public debut of the new public TV math series next
April. That'll be a time of peaking viewer interest in the
subject, an opportunity to take a stand for Mathematics with
a capital M. Perhaps the MAA would like to help with the
Hey, that was a great show you guys staged for us at the
Oregon Math Summit on Oct 2nd! I was in the audience (the
guy towards the middle with the video camera going). My
own personal account of that event is now online, in case
you're curious (mentions you):
I recall your saying something about the new math show
containing a segment wherein some math people discuss their
fascination in the fourth dimension and beyond -- "a kind
of spiritual thing for them" you said. That struck a chord
with me (4D Solutions is my company name), although I maybe
don't see the "dimension" concept in quite the same way
they do (no matter, Math offers a big world of only partially
overlapping ideas -- a veritable jungle, as you say).
Anyway, I'm excited about the growing interest in mathematics
and am positioning to up my level of participation, at least
here in Oregon (our Math Learning Center is highly respected
in these parts). I think the MAA should be proud of all we're
doing out here in the Wild West to make sure that Mathematics
remains the stuff of the future, not just a memory of bygone
triumphs of the human intellect.
 For more on spirituality and the fourth dimension:
 For more on the Jungle and Mathematics:
(a reading in the humanities -- not in competition with your
book and written years ago in any case)
Now, about the planned action...
In circulation as of Oct 21 1997 (today):
Maybe when the USA prez chats with those college presidents
about his reading program today he'll want to advise 'em of
the upcoming national "walk out of math class day" some
friends and I are dreaming about. No date specified yet,
that I know of, and still thinking about what's the best
age range to most closely involve. College kids are
definitely on board, but I'm looking at the K-12 picture.
Traditionally, the youngest get left out of any such protest
action, as it can be too emotionally traumatic for them to
subvert the authority of much loved teachers for a cause too
nebulous to grasp (some might argue that the tetrahedron
isn't nebulous, but that's a whole other thread).
My feeling is 6th graders are probably old enough to get some
educational benefit from a math class walk out and as news of
the action spreads, I'm guessing the kids will be able to
recruit a healthy number of teachers and administrators to
support this 20 minute maneuver, or at least turn a blind eye.
I get enough emails from math teachers today to suggest that,
here in Oregon at least, the rationale for a walk out is well
understood at many levels.
At the high school level, we already have definite leadership
emerging, with seniors knowing clearly that their educational
experience has been hampered by bureaucratic suppression and
meddling aimed at killing off core math department initiatives
designed to empower them and boost their thinking skills --
in the area of spatial geometry especially.
Our focus here should be to remind students about the norms
of constructive civil disobedience. No loud or rude behavior
is required. Wearing a tie might be a good idea -- but no
arm bands. Pink Floyd's "we don't need no education..."
theme, while clearly germane, is too aggressively hostile
against most teachers, who don't indulge in sarcasm at the
level targeted by that song -- different in the UK perhaps
but that's not our problem. I also discourage the wearing
of 'Buck U' T-shirts -- again, invective should be kept to