I just finished teaching a three week class on mathematics and sustainability. It was this amazing experience where I felt fully integrated: math, art, environmentalism—all these different parts of me were all there. Here are some samples of my students’ work.
It’s not entirely clear in this tiny photo but each student was required to display one math problem, one block print, and one inspirational quote from the readings we did.
At the end of the block I gave them one last inspirational speech. I described the last time I heard Bill McKibben talk. It was at the Mountain School, to an audience of around 100 students, teachers and community members. He talked a little bit about the numbers of sustainability, about the global movement for climate justice, and he showed photos of people from around the world who were affected by climate change. It was pretty inspiring stuff.
What I remember the most was at the end of the lecture, one of the students raised her hand and asked, “What should I study if I want to make a difference?” This was a girl who was an all around amazing student. She could have excelled at anything she put her mind to, and she was ready to dedicate her studies to solving our climate problems. I expected him to say, climatology, or engineering, or physics or something, but what he said surprised me: he said, study what you love. He said, we need everybody, scientists, yes, but also writers, artists, doctors, poets, and clergymen. Every one of us is needed in the fight for climate justice—we’re all essential. That was when I realized that I could make a huge impact as both a math teacher and an artist. I realized that being all of who I am—not picking and choosing what I think other people will value–is how I will be of the most service to the world.