by Claire Miller
The streets in cities like Beirut, Lebanon, Fez, Morocco, and Durban, South Africa, teem with street vendors and craftspeople selling their handmade wares to passersby. Kiosks employ people as young as 8 years old and offer everything from fruits and vegetables to baskets, beadwork, fabrics and ceramics.
These cityscapes reveal indigenous cultures that took root hundreds of years ago, the vestiges of a society where a great many people earn their living with nothing but a few raw materials, their bare hands and pride in the cultural heritage passed on by their ancestors.
It was in this environment that College of Education Assistant Professor Iman Chahine’s passion for education blossomed – where she observed the kinds of lessons people learn outside of the classroom.
In her first year in the COE, Chahine created a study abroad course in which math education students travel to cultural sites in Morocco and/or South Africa and spend time with apprentices and master craftspeople – many of whom have no formal education – to study how they use mathematics in everyday life.
“Imagine students from the math education program seeing mathematics in action with people who have never been to school before,” Chahine said. “It’s good for our college students and students in our schools to see how problem solving evolves. We want the teachers to go and have unique experiences examining the power of mathematics in the lives of ordinary people and to bring back with them tasks that they can use in their own classrooms.”
Iman Chahine earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics and her master’s degree in mathematics education from the American University of Beirut in 1985 and 1992, respectively. In her master’s program, she studied street vendors in Lebanon to see how they learned their computation skills. She received her Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota in 2008.
This study abroad course is open to all undergraduate and graduate students, as well as non-credit and transient students. Registration in the course is competitive and high priority is given to early applicants.
Students will study several examples of mathematical ideas that come from activities such as art and decoration, divination, counting schemes and creating calendars. The course will also touch on the connections between ethnomathematics and mathematics education in schools. Following their time with craftspeople in Morocco and/or South Africa, students will reflect on what they learned from seeing mathematics in practice.
For more information, visit http://education.gsu.edu/international.