Who is behind this website? I’m Angela Vierling-Claassen, and I’m an associate professor of mathematics at Lesley University. I got a PhD in mathematics from Boston University and I have taught mathematics at BU, Harvard, Lesley, and other places. I enjoy thinking about intersections between mathematics and the rest of life, and I want to use math to help people understand life, the universe, and everything.
Mathematics in Education
This past year, I have been working at Lesley on projects to better place incoming students into math courses and to evaluate the impact of mathematics classes on student retention. I have also been working on scraping review data from Rate My Professor in order to analyze both the numerics and text data to answer questions related to professor efficacy, student success, and gender.
Shame in Mathematics
I am also interested in how shame and fear impact people as they use mathematics. I realized a couple of years ago that shame was playing a large role in my own life as a mathematician and in my classroom. So I started to learn about shame, and to research its impact on mathematics teaching and learning. While doing that work, I became interested in relational practice in education, and how the relationships between me and students were impacting both me and my students. I also became interested in critical pedagogy, and the idea of developing a critical awareness of mathematical education, particularly through noticing who is left without a voice and trying to include those disenfranchised by mathematics in conversations about math. Finally, I started to use memory as a tool to understand and interrogate mathematical identity. Recently, I have been working on finishing a paper which develops a theory of how shame impacts mathematics teaching and learning. This expands several talks I have given in the past and has influenced a course a developed called Liberation Math.
Math and Art
Every spring, I teach a course called Math, Art, and Design. This is a course that I created to address the needs of Lesley University College of Art and Design students, as well as students majoring in other creative fields like art therapy. We spend the semester exploring mathematical thought and making things connected to mathematics. Each year it changes a bit as I bring in new content that I want to explore. Some materials from recent years:
- Some student materials from the first class (2015) on polyominoes, iamonds, and polyarcs.
- A first class focusing on perspective from 2014.
- A sketch of the infinity unit we have done the last several years, and virtual dodge ball.
- Several years ago, some students and I worked long-distance with artist Nick Sayers to recreate a version of his Hyberbolic Coffee Cactus in the US. After completion he displayed the work at Cade Tompkins gallery in Rhode Island.
- The work that students produce is one of the best things about the class. One example is a Minecraft Menger Sponge done as part of a geometric sculpture project.
A few years ago I gave a talk on Mathematical Models and Modern art at the international Bridges Conference in Pecs, Hungary. Later, a revised and updated version of that talk was given at the Museum of Mathematics. I have a longstanding interest in models of mathematical surfaces and artists who have drawn inspiration from them, and have done multiple talks and papers about them.
Selected Other Work
In 2013 and 2014, I worked with a team at the Lesley University Creativity Commons on project called Sidewalk Math, which a diverse group together build number sense and pattern making skills in young children through beautiful sidewalk patterns. We summarized our work in a “Footbook” which includes information about the development of the project, detailed instructions, and supporting materials like parent and teacher workshops. This work is ongoing.
In 2014, I worked with the Center for Asian American Media to create a series of video assets in middle school mathematics for the PBS Learning Media website. We focused on showing mathematics in the context of diverse human endeavors in music, art, and athletics, and our videos.
Each summer, I volunteer for a week with Girls Rock Campain Boston, which has girls form a band, learn a new instrument, and write and perform their own original song. At GRCB we teach the girls and women to be loud, be heard, and to build each other up. This group is important to me because of it’s focus education as a tool for empowerment and on providing educational opportunities outside of school. I strive to bring much of the spirit of GRCB into my own teaching and educational philosophy. I have also been involved in running and recruiting volunteers for math clubs as elementary schools in Cambridge, MA, and in volunteering at Wild Rose Montessori in Cambridge, MA.
I am very interested in using mathematics to address issues in human relationships. For example, I have written papers on game theoretical models of housework and childcare. I have also developed a model of how social networks become more accepting of gays and lesbians and I have a paper outlining how the model can be used in a classroom activity that will appear in Mathematics and Social Justice from the MAA press.