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Xavier Magazine | May 25, 2018

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Ill Children Reap What New Math Class Sew

By Skip Tate

The department of mathematics recently added to its bottom line. The course: women in mathematics. The class introduces various types of math by first studying different women mathematicians. Before studying modular systems, for instance, the students learned about Sarah Flannery, the 16-year-old Irish girl who used the system to invent a method of converting computer code that is 22 times faster than standard methods. “It was different,” says Sheila Doran, the associate professor of math who created the course. “We dealt with things the students could relate to and used real-life aspects of math instead of memorizing algebra rules or something and then moving on. And we worked really hard at not making it a history class, but a math class that had the added interest of history.” The class is geared toward those who traditionally struggle with math. It also offers the option of a rather untraditional final project—sewing a geometric quilt with a mathematics theme. When given the option of sewing or writing, much to Doran’s surprise, almost the entire class chose to make the quilts. After the quilts were graded, Doran donated them to Project Linus, a nonprofit group that provides security blankets to seriously ill children. The class is being offered again this fall. It immediately filled its 28 seats, and will be examined this winter to see if it can become a permanent offering.

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