Although I, like many teachers, have issues with the Common Core Mathematics Standards, the standards for mathematical practice (SMP) are a step in the right direction. For many students, the content itself may be forgotten due to disuse, but consistent emphasis on SMP from kindergarten to twelfth grade will give them the ability to grapple with whatever mathematics they face beyond the walls of the classroom. My project, The Mathematics of Human Exploration, seeks to address the practices of mathematicians, while also developing an explorer mindset. If you are unfamiliar with SMP, head to this Common Core page, otherwise you can find an abbreviated list below:
- Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
- Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
- Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
- Model with mathematics.
- Use appropriate tools strategically.
- Attend to precision.
- Look for and make use of structure.
- Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.
These eight standards apply as much to pushing mathematical frontiers as exploring physical geography, partly because they are not mutually exclusive fields. Therefore, this project seeks to create a context for making these standards matter. Attending to precision matters less on a worksheet than it does on navigating in the wilderness as you seek to find the next water source. At the same time, trying to map Earth’s remaining wild spaces will be a lot harder without using the appropriate mathematical tool strategically. And the physical demands of exploring nature and communicating finds will lead to countless problems that will require reasoning and perseverance. All of this is meant to show that mathematics, exploration, and physical geography have significant overlap, which is what this project is all about.