He Brings a Little Culture to Math (login: GNXP, password: evilgenes).
Ron Eglash looks at the careful weaves in cornrow hair and sees mathematical patterns. He sees evidence of Cartesian geometry in Indian beadwork and hears a way to teach kids about ratios in syncopated Latin beats.
He is a sort of mathematical detective — he finds evidence of mathematical design in places as diverse as African villages and American cities. He then helps translate mathematical concepts embedded in the likes of hairstyles and jewelry patterns into educational software. The result is lessons like “Black Hairstyle Mathematics,” crafted with an eye toward attracting students of color to math, with a sweetener of cultural pride.
“There’s already mathematics there — in the graffiti, in cornrows, in the beadwork,” Eglash said. “And the problem is that the mathematics isn’t in a form that is the same as school math.”
Technology is just one of Eglash’s interests. He also has had a long preoccupation with social causes, including feminism and workers’ rights. He has looked to bridge these two interests — technology and activism — since he was a student in the ’70s.
Unfortunately, he often found the bridge closed.
While earning his undergraduate degree in cybernetics at UCLA, he earned cross looks with classroom questions like, “What about the political side to this?”
A decade later, while working toward his doctorate in the history of consciousness, a suggestion to apply mathematical analyses to the curriculum were sometimes shot down with: “Well, mathematics is a tool of capitalistic imperialism.”
Update: Here is a comment by Thomas Sowell on “late talkers” and their fluency at math.
Update 2: Thomas R. DeGregori details how “ethnic science” is harming India in this article. Posted by martin.