About the Backgrounders
SENCER Backgrounders are intended to provide intelligent, general readers with high quality syntheses of some of the complex, capacious civic issues that SENCER courses sometimes use to teach basic science. The idea is not to explain the science, but to connect some of what is known, and as yet unknown scientifically, with some of what is at stake civically. A second goal is to identify where scientific knowledge sheds light in such a way as to make civic choices more optimal. Though science is only occasionally the final word on what choice one should make on a complex civic issue, it is worth knowing what science tells us as we deliberate and take into account matters that go beyond science.
The topics for the backgrounders reflect program directions within SENCER and our campus partners' interests and needs. We are deeply grateful to the distinguished group of authors and scholars who have contributed papers to this collection. The papers reflect each author's point of view. We wanted it to be this way: fair, transparent, helpful, even occasionally provocative. Within the democratic aspirations of SENCER, there is room for many points of view. We welcome the use of these papers in classrooms and for the development of courses and course modules.
The authors hold the copyright for these materials, but they may be freely reproduced for non-profit use, provided credit to the authors and the SENCER program is given. Watch for new topics in this series and please let us know if these papers have been of use to you in your teaching and learning. Suggestions for topics of future SENCER Backgrounders and any other comments you might care to make are always welcome.
The SENCER Backgrounders
Listed Alphabetically by Author
Dr. Troy Duster
Dr. Eugenia Etkina and Dr. Jose P. Mestre
Dr. David Ferguson
Dr. Richard Fluck
Dr. Robert Franco
Dr. DonnaJean Fredeen
Dr. Raymond Hopkins
Dr. Richard P. Keeling
Dr. Kristen Kulinowski
Dr. Byron McCane
Dr. Terry McGuire
Dr. Debra Meyer
Dr. Eleanor J. Sterling, Dr. Nora Bynum, Dr. Ian Harrison, Dr. Melina Laverty, Dr. Sacha Spector, Dr. Elizabeth Johnson
By Dr. David Ferguson
Stony Brook University
This paper calls for increased emphasis on a vision of mathematical and statistical reasoning that situates these subjects in compelling contexts (compelling from the students' viewpoints) and thereby allows for the development of core mathematical concepts that can be interconnected to a variety of interests and purposes. That vision suggests a modest core of mathematical concepts and methods, developed through a constructivist approach.
Students will build on that core to both extend their understanding to new mathematical ideas/approaches and enhance their understanding of complex (dirty) domains in which mathematics contributes to their evolving knowledge.
This approach recognizes that, both within the core and beyond the core, students' knowledge will evolve in different ways. Such student-initiated learning paths will demand creative and flexible assessment methods that not only gauge progress on benchmarks but reveal insights about learners' unique experiences on personally meaningful projects.