Mathematical science communication has, as a field of science communication in general, gained momentum over the last decades. It aims at informing the public about contemporary research, enhancing the factual and methodological knowledge, fostering a greater interest and support for the science of mathematics, and enabling the citizens to apply it to their practical life, as well as decision-making on a bigger level. These objectives are met by the various formats and media in which mathematical science communication is brought to the public. There is classical journalism, which tells enticing stories about the subjects and protagonists of mathematics, science museums and events focused on engaging the participants in mathematical activities, and the internet hosts another variety of entertaining and interactive mathematics projects such as YouTube channels and interactive platforms. In the first part of the book, we want to build a body of comparable project descriptions to illustrate the variety of motivations, methods and goals.
Yet while the community of active practitioners is exchanging experiences, not much conceptualization has happened. Hence, the second parts focusses on the theorization of the many endeavors. The discourse of the field of science communication, has shifted (at least theoretically) from the deficit to the dialogue-model. How far has mathematical science communication come in this transformation? Mathematics is the provenance of making sharp definitions and thus, its science communication should follow its heritage and start the process of conceptualization. How can we terminologically differentiate between factual and methodological knowledge about mathematics and an affective response like interest, support and appreciation which are often demanded as a response. Is this adequately reflected in the use of terms such as understanding and awareness of mathematics? What are the dimensions of mathematical literacy? The definition given by the OECD in the PISA study1, may be a starting point to weigh in the aspects of being able to apply mathematics in the role of a democratic citizen. These and other questions will be considered in Part B.
The first part of the book consists of reflections of best-practice examples. Various actors in the field of mathematical science communication introduce their projects and give insight into the motivation behind their endeavors and describe their objectives. Where do they locate themselves between science communication and informal science education and which methods and instruments do they use, to bring their message across and to whom? How did they define the success of their project and in what ways was it measured? Were there any other forms of feedback implemented?
The second part discusses the structural aspects of mathematical science communication and lays down the basics for its theoretical framework. Here we want to discuss the following questions:
For classification, comparability and transparency of the many projects in mathematical science communication, it is necessary to clearly define what public awareness, public understanding and scientific literacy means for mathematics.
In many everyday life decisions being able to understand risk and statistics is an important factor and has an effect on the health of the individual and the economy. Research on risk literacy studies whether individuals are sufficiently equipped to substantiate their decisions according to the statistical results, e.g., if they understand them “well enough”.
In the field of math education, the concept of beliefs and world-views is defined and studied. Can these concepts be broadened to the public awareness of mathematics and how do these beliefs and world-views correlate with public understanding and literacy?
Many mathematicians engage in popularizing their work in order to make it accessible to the general public. Since science is mostly funded by public means, there is a certain pressure to report about the achievements. Another reason can be to attract the next generation of successful mathematicians. A profound discussion of the motivations behind the endeavors to popularize the work of mathematicians seems insightful.
Abbot’s novel Flatland that coincides with the discovery of the fourth dimension has become very popular in the end of the 19th century. In the 70th, a homemaker stumbled across a mathematical problem in a magazine and significantly contributed to its solution. There are more stories to tell about the history of mathematical science communication and its repercussions to scientific mathematics.
What are the differences in mathematics education? What collaborations and synergies emerge from international networks and conferences? What role does the location in the global north vs. south play?