23-07-2024  Tuesday


Ph.D. Synopsis Seminar by Mr. Arul Ganesh SS

Date: 23 July, 2024
Time: 11:00 - 12:00

Venue: Main Building Lecture Room - G1

Coordinator: Dean's Office


Social, Political, and Economical Management of Uncertainty and Mathematics Education: Learnings from an Ethnography in a Fishing Village


Probability and statistics teaching and learning have become an essential part of the school curriculum. Even though its relative importance in textbooks can be debated, there is a consensus that probabilistic and statistical thinking are essential skills for our times. It may be argued that to understand the need and limitations of mathematizing stochastic processes, an understanding of the role of uncertainty in public and private lives is essential. However, the latter is not easy, as it is difficult to define what is uncertain, posing challenges to both teaching and learning of uncertainty and hence its mathematisation. Our early classroom observations and textbook analysis suggested that the textbooks,

• tend to make no distinction between different kinds of uncertainties,

• move from colloquial chance events like missing a train to quantification of chance in the case of well-defined random experiments like tossing a coin without making any qualitative distinctions between the two,

• provides next to no room for discussions on subjective preferences and other subjectivities when it comes to acting under uncertainty, and

• tend to present problems of probability as problems of proportions.

Additionally, even though support for citizenship is an often cited curricular goal for teaching and learning probability and statistics, textbooks do not get into the role of institutions in managing uncertainty. Motivated by these and more importantly the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, this thesis is an attempt to gather insights from an occupational context to inform our imaginations of mathematical learning ecologies around uncertainty. Through an ethnography conducted in a fishing village, particularly of fishing auctions, and conversations with fishers we explore the role of institutions, social relations, and subjectivities in uncertainty management. Our analysis illustrates the collective nature of mathematical activities, particularly where multiple individuals collaboratively and competitively engage in the estimation of the value of fish through negotiations. These collective epistemic practices are linked with how numbers take on different roles and meanings within the context of a single auction, and how precision and estimation are intertwined in establishing the legitimacy of the auction community. Building on this we designed and explored a board game as a potential learning ecology that can create opportunities to learn and understand about uncertainty. I share our preliminary analysis from this experience in the Synopsis. We also present instructional resources (learning materials, example problems, classroom activities, strategies, etc.) that embody some of these learnings. These are also in preliminary stages currently and will be developed further in the thesis.