This guest blog post is by Dr Brendan Larvor, PI for the Mathematical Cultures Research Network

Elizabeth Hind works for a company in Liverpool, organising STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fairs and promoting STEM education.  She is also a trained archaeologist.

In April 2014, we held the last of our three meetings on mathematical cultures.  This final meeting was on relations between mathematical and non-mathematical cultures, with particular reference to motivating young non-mathematicians to take up mathematics.  We heard from a range of experts, including senior mathematicians, mathematics education researchers, historians and philosophers.  Liz Hind’s contribution was uniquely valuable because, as an organiser of STEM fairs, she works at a multiple intersection.  At STEM fairs, STEM subjects present themselves to the public, but a STEM fair is also an intersection between the STEM subjects themselves.  The peculiar place of mathematics in relation to the other STEM disciplines was the focus of Liz’s talk.

When we designed the Mathematical Cultures project, which considers Mathematics as Culture and Mathematics in Culture, we anticipated contributions from philosophy, sociology, educational research, psychology, cognitive science and history.  We did not expect to hear an archaeological argument, so it was a pleasant surprise when Liz sprang one on us.

Archaeologists make inferences from the layouts of sites.  From the spatial arrangements of structures on the ground, they can work out who was important and what they cared about.  At the third conference on Mathematical cultures (10-12 April 2014), Liz used this skill to give an archaeologist’s reading of the floor-plan of a major STEM fair.  From this, she drew conclusions about the place of mathematics in the world of STEM education.  To see her argument in detail, watch her talk:

You may be also interested in the blog entries that have followed our meeting:

This is one of a series of guest blog posts written by AHRC Science in Culture Theme Award Holders. The Science in Culture Theme is a key area of AHRC funding and supports projects committed to developing reciprocal relationships between Scientists and Arts and Humanities researchers. More information about the Mathematical Cultures Research Network can be found here. Follow us on twitter @AHRCSciculture for updates from the Theme.