Mathematical modeling is one way to connect people with mathematics as an empowering tool that belongs to everyone. Modeling illuminates mathematics as a tool to inform choices and decisions based on gathering and analyzing relevant information. Deciding which information is relevant and how to analyze it can be complicated and also creative, because it depends on the objectives of the client.
Modeling almost always involves making simplifying assumptions and developing algorithms based on mathematics and statistics and explored through computation and visualization. We are beginning to recognize the ways algorithms can embed preferences, ethics and even biases in models. Mathematics can help us understand when algorithms and models work, how they work and under what conditions they can fail. The mathematical sciences helps us answer fundamental questions about the world around us, often in collaboration with partner disciplines.
I have been passionate about educating teachers in mathematical modeling since the early 1990s when Everly Broadway invited me to provide professional development for the Durham Public Schools.
Cynthia Anhalt and I co-organized the Critical Issues in Mathematics Education March 2019 meeting on Mathematical Modeling in K-16: Community and Cultural Contexts at the Mathematics Sciences Research Institute (MSRI). See this article by one of our participants and facilitators, Greta Mills.
SIAM and COMAP are making freely available the Guidelines for Assessment and Instruction in Mathematical Modeling Education (GAIMME Report). Readers can “look over the shoulder” of expert facilitators of mathematical modeling and gain a gentle introduction to mathematical modeling from Kindergarten to Undergraduate classrooms.
The National Science Foundation funded a project called IMMERSION (STEM-C 1441024), which has been continued in California as the Pomona Unified School District Math Modeling Summer Institute .
In 2019 PUSD will hold its 5th summer institute in mathematical modeling for elementary school teachers, taught by former participants in the program. These PUSD teachers are available to provide professional development in mathematical modeling education to teachers from other school districts!
If you are looking for resources to teach mathematical modeling, check out Mathematical Modeling: Computing and Communicating, one of the many free resources offered by SIAM as part of the Mathworks Math Modeling Challenge (M3 Challenge) which welcomes high school student teams to the world of modeling and data science.
The Math Modeling Hub is an online community and resource suite to support mathematical modeling education.