The Ohio State Hidden Figures Revealed Project: Educational Resources that Connect Math with History

Special thanks to our guest contributors from the Hidden Figures Revealed: Dynamic History and Narratives of Black Mathematicians from The Ohio State University

In 2020, The Ohio State University launched a call for projects proposed by university interdisciplinary teams that would work with community entities to address institutional racism. Hidden Figures Revealed: Dynamic History and Narratives of Black Mathematicians at The Ohio State University, led by Dr. Ranthony A.C. Edmonds, currently a National Science Foundation MPS-Ascend Fellow at OSU, received funding (Office of Research) and matching funds from the Global Arts and Humanities Discovery Theme. The project  focuses on conducting a comprehensive historical study of Black mathematicians at Ohio State, the first of this type at a single US institution. Its mission is to inspire reform related to representation and the educational experiences of Black Americans in mathematical and STEM fields of study by showcasing the achievement and stories of the nearly 200 Black-identified individuals who have earned degrees in mathematics from The Ohio State University, but whose stories remain hidden.

The team is working with two community partners to conduct their research–The National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center of The Ohio History Connection and the National Alliance for Doctoral Studies in the Mathematical Sciences. Using digital storytelling, the results of the research will be shared broadly through a website (projected launch: September 2022). As part of the project’s goal of increasing awareness of black math history in Central Ohio, the team is developing educational resources that will be shared on the website. Such resources include lesson plans connecting local history and math. All lesson plans begin by introducing one of the OSU mathematicians from the study and continue to a hands-on exploration of the math this person worked on.

One of the mathematicians that the study has uncovered is Dr. Thyrsa Frazier Svager, a Wilberforce, Ohio native who obtained master’s and PhD degrees in mathematics from Ohio State and dedicated her life to education and research at her hometown’s Central State University (CSU). She would go on to be a Professor, Dean, Provost, and Interim President. The problem that Dr. Svager analyzed on her master’s thesis builds from simple math concepts such as area of a square, addition, multiplication, and prime numbers, and so sharing her story provides a great opportunity to connect math with history and to inspire students to do math while uncovering this hidden figure while offering young students a standout role model from among Ohio State’s black math graduates.

Among the earliest contributions of the Hidden Figures Revealed project, educators across Ohio may create a more diverse curriculum using a set of classroom resources developed around Dr. Svager’s work and legacy (see below), with the promise of more resources to come once the website launches. The team hopes that educators and others will find these resources useful and meaningful.

For more information, comments, or suggestions contact [email protected].

Resources

Student Teacher Materials

Full Lesson Plan: Sum of Squares
Keywords: multiples, factors, primes, sequences, areas, powers, squaring, patterns, prime factorization, board game

Lower Grades Lesson Plan

  • Level: Grades 3 to 7
  • Time: 90 minutes

Upper Grades Lesson Plan

  • Level: Grades 8 to 12
  • Time: 70 minutes

Blog image citation: Public domain. Photo of Thyrsa Frazier Svager courtesy of Mr. Aleksandar Svager. The Dayton Foundation: For foundation donors – donor stories: Thyrsa Frazier Svager scholarship fund. Retrieved February 22, 2022, from https://www.daytonfoundation.org/frazier-svager.html

Posted March 8, 2022

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