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Mason professor is a Global Math Week ambassador

October 12, 2017   /   by John Hollis

Sachs. Creative Services photo

Connecting millions of students around the globe for a shared mathematical experience is just what George Mason University’s Robert Sachs had in mind when he agreed to help spread the word about the upcoming inaugural Global Math Week

“I’ve always liked teaching math and seeing kids get interested in math,” said Sachs, a professor in George Mason’s Department of Mathematical Sciences who is serving as a Global Math Week ambassador. “The beauty of this activity is that it is significant, but the setup doesn’t make it overpowering, but inviting. It’s not too late for teachers to join us.” 

The Global Math Project, with its grassroots community of educators, coaches, administrators and “friends of math,” wants to change how the world perceives math and generate more interest among younger students. 

The purpose of the eight-day mathematical extravaganza, which runs Oct. 10-17, is to help change the narrative surrounding mathematics by having young math students engage in fun math activities related to place value, polynomial algebra and infinite series in the theme of Exploding Dots. 

Exploding Dots is a mathematical story that emphasizes deep thinking about place value. It assumes nothing, starting from grade-school arithmetic and working through polynomial algebra, then on to infinite sums and even unsolved problems baffling mathematicians today, according to the project website. 

Teachers who register for the project are asked to spend as little as 15 minutes having students explore Exploding Dots during Global Math Week. 

“This is all volunteer,” said James Tanton, one of the co-founders of the Global Math Project and a mathematician-at-large with the Mathematical Association of America. “And this is global. It is all propelled by an incredible community of teachers across the globe simply wanting to share the human joy of mathematics with students, no matter the age level, no matter the curriculum demands. We are truly transcending borders through the beauty and power of joyful mathematics.” 

More than 5,000 teachers and nearly 750,000 students from more than 100 different countries and territories are signed up to participate. The program hopes to draw a million students. 

Sachs is among a global network of volunteer ambassadors who helped spread the word about the Global Math Week and ensured access for teachers around the globe. He delivered a presentation for Fairfax County teachers in late August just prior to the start of the school year and has spread the word through the Virginia Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. 

Sachs was already looking forward to the start of Global Math Week and having students in the Fairfax Math Circle explore Exploding Dots with him and his colleague Rebecca Goldin on Sunday, Oct. 15, in Exploratory Hall. 

“It’s got a range of activities across different grade levels,” he said. “It’s meant to be fun, challenging and engaging.”