Big Ideas in Literacy
Thinking Like a Mathematician
We all use math every day. To predict weather . . . to tell time . . . to handle money. Math is more than formulas and equations. It’s logic; it’s rationality. It’s using your mind to solve the biggest mysteries we know.
- Charlie Eppes, fictional mathematician and professor from NUMB3RS, a CBS television series created by Nicolas Flacci and Cheryl Heuton
Reflect: When considering what is meant by disciplinary literacy in the field of mathematics, what would come to mind? How do mathematicians read, write, speak, and listen? What are the literacy demands of each?
In order to consider these questions, it can be useful to examine the work of a fictional mathematician named Charlie Eppes, the star of the CBS program NUMB3RS. Through a collaboration with the Los Angeles FBI, Eppes has many opportunities to use mathematics to solve real-world problems in applied settings.
It can also be helpful to consider the work of theoretical mathematician Julia Robinson, who spent most of her professional life pursuing a solution to a single but important mathematical problem.
Finally, it can be helpful to consider your own experiences as a mathematician, whether these experiences are associated with solving mathematical problems in the context of a mathematics course you were taking or whether these experiences come from your preparations to teach mathematics. In both these contexts, you have opportunities to experience the disciplinary literacy practices of a mathematician.