Call for inclusive mathematics education research published in prestigious journal

Photo by John Moeses Bauan on Unsplash

York University Assistant Professor Molade Osibodu is the lead author on a paper titled “A Participatory Turn in Mathematics Education Research: Possibilities,” a paper published in the prestigious Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, which calls for greater participation in research involving minoritized communities.

Molade Osibodu

The journal is considered the foremost publication on mathematics education research, making Osibodu’s achievement a notable one with the promise of significant impact. “I feel really grateful to have the paper in this journal and have the ideas that we talked about be discussed with a wide group of readers,” says Osibodu.

The theoretical paper argues mathematics education research rooted in minoritized communities often risk excluding or only superficially accounting for their perspectives and experiences. Furthermore, it is often led by those with dominant social identities (white, male, well-funded) who attempt to comment on realities of inequity as objective observers when they may not be.

Complicating the power dynamic tension between researchers and studied communities is how mathematics education positions minoritized students and families as outcomes of politically motivated reform, which has the potential to cause harmful or dehumanizing mathematical experiences.

“Humans are a part of this work and so you have to include their voices and particularly for those of us who claim to want to do work that is equity focused, that is socially just then we have to recognize that it is paramount to center the voices of those whose experiences we seek to better,” says Osibodu.

“If we really want to have meaningful change in mathematics education, we can’t keep doing research the same way. If the goal is to engender positive social change, then we have to also recognize the community members have a lot of knowledge to bring in – especially if you are not part of that community.”

The paper offers several recommendations towards a more participatory research paradigm, which integrates those for whom mathematics education research is most consequential:

  • historically marginalized communities should be co-researchers;
  • disparate forms of knowing should be re brought into continuous contact with emphasis on conversation around where marginzalition is most felt;
  • people, institutions and practices need to be acknowledged as historicized;
  • tensions should be embraced as spaces for learning with outside researchers understanding that their participation may unintentionally colonize the research process; and
  • practices should be renegotiated toward making social change that outlasts the research project or promote structural changes that shift resources in more equitable ways.

“In however many years of math education research has been going on, youth of colour, and other marginalized groups are still struggling in their experiences,” says Osibodu. What’s called for here is a sentiment she credits to academic Katherine McKittrick, and her book Dear Science and Other Stories. “If you want to get new, different answers, you have to ask different questions. That includes the types of methodologies that you are embracing. You have to try different things,” she says.

The approaches outlined in Osibodu’s paper highlights a promising route. “I hope that more math education researchers consider doing work this way.”

Project with York co-principal investigator receives mpox research grant

Doctor with face mask looking through a microscope

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) awarded a $412,000 grant to a research team, which includes Assistant Professor in Mathematics and Statistics Iain Moyles as co-principal investigator, that will analyze the influence of human behaviour in disease dynamics.

Iain Moyles
Iain Moyles (photo by John Ohle)

Titled “Epidemiological modelling of behavioural impact on Mpox mitigation strategies,” and led by Bouchra Nasri, an assistant professor in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine at the Université de Montréal’s School of Public Health, the project is part of an investment of $6.35M from the Government of Canada to support 13 teams across Canada that will carry out national and global health research projects on mpox and other zoonotic threats.

“Canada is not immune to future transmissions of mpox or other zoonotic diseases which is why investing in research that will strengthen our response is so important. Through this funding, researchers in Canada are taking the lead in understanding transmission, mitigation, and prevention to help Canada and countries around the world be better prepared for future zoonotic threats,” says Jean-Yves Duclos, minister of health.

The goal of Moyles and his collaborator’s project is to build upon limited knowledge around on mpox dynamics and the impact of behavioural changes on the virus and outbreak. Behaviour plays a critical role in how infectious diseases are spread, as well as the willingness of an individual to seek preventative health measures.

Driven by data from scientific literature and near real-time behavioural information from social media on prevailing attitudes towards mpox, the team will look to create a centralised repository of behavioural information in the context of infectious diseases that can provide reliable and updated knowledge for decision-makers and researchers.

The project will place a particular emphasis on the gay, bisexual and other men-who-have-sex-with-men (gbMSM) community, which has been disproportionately impacted by the mpox outbreak.

It will work closely with the gbMSM community, creating a community advisory board that includes experts and members of the gbMSM community in order to develop culturally sensitive and adequate strategies and ensure timely knowledge translation of our results to a broad audience, such as open-access publications and best-practice documentation.

The $412,000 grant from CIHR will fund two years of the project, with the result at the end of that period being translating findings into actionable information.

C4 team receives teaching innovation award

Award stock image banner from pexels

Members of York University’s Cross-Campus Capstone Classroom (C4) team were awarded the 2023 D2L Innovation Award in Teaching and Learning from the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE), which recognizes post-secondary collaborative teams for their innovative approaches to promoting student-centered teaching and learning.

C4, launched in 2019, emphasizes student work with real-world challenges with social impact, promoting team-based collaboration, advanced research and design, critical and strategic thinking, and more.

The award was bestowed on those associated with C4’s innovative approach to pan-university interdisciplinary experiential education, including:

  • Danielle Robinson, co-founder and executive director of C4, as well as associate professor in the Department of Dance;
  • Franz Newland, co-founder and co-curriculum lead of C4, as well as assistant professor and undergraduate program director for Space Engineering;
  • Rachelle Campigotto, classroom coordinator assistant for C4 and contract faculty in the Faculty of Education;
  • Dana Craig, Libraries liaison of C4 and director of student learning and academic success;
  • Danielle Dobney, associate director of C4 and assistant professor in Kinesiology and the Athletic Therapy Certificate program;
  • Andrea Kalmin, York Capstone Network professor liaison and adjunct faculty member in the Department of Social Science;
  • Alice Kim, scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) research lead and instructor; and
  • Natasha May, Teaching Commons liaison for C4 and educational developer in York’s Teaching Commons.

The D2L Innovation Award is an international recognition, open to applicants from all countries. It evaluates and rewards innovations in pedagogical approaches, teaching methods, course design, curriculum development, assessment methods, and more. It is named after D2L, a cloud-based learning analytics platform.

Award recipients are invited to a retreat held the day of the pre-conference at STLHE’s Annual Conference. This retreat includes a facilitated session, lunch, and a social and learning excursion focused on innovation. At the conference they will be recognized at the Conference Awards Ceremony and receive a certificate in recognition of their work.

Mike Rose

Mike Rose

Mike Rose, management information coordinator in the Department of Student Recruitment and Admissions, received an Award of Excellence from the Ontario University Registrars’ Association

Professor’s work shines light on Northern Lights

Northern Lights

In March 2023, cities across Southern Ontario witnessed a rare occurrence of the Northern Lights. A source of wonder for many, for Afshin Rezaei-Zare, associate professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering, it was an example of the focus of his research on geomagnetic disturbances (GMD) and their impacts on society and technological infrastructures.

“The event that many people witnessed in the Greater Toronto Area was caused by a relatively weak geomagnetic solar storm,” says Rezaei-Zare. “Strong solar winds from the storm pushed the sun’s particles deeper in the atmosphere, ionizing more gases and moving them to lower latitudes than we usually expect; that is why we could see these lights in the GTA,” he says, explaining the event.

Afshin Rezaei-Zare
Afshin Rezaei-Zare

Solar winds are streams of materials from the sun, mainly charged particles like electrons and protons, that can come in contact with Earth’s magnetic field and collide with gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, emitting the flares of light that are commonly known as the Northern Lights. There is more to them, however, than a beautiful sight.

“When the Earth’s magnetic field is hit by coronal mass ejections and intense solar flares, similar to but stronger than what happened in March, they can cause geomagnetic disturbances in addition to expanded northern lights,” says Rezaei-Zare. “This can have a widespread impact on technology, even damaging things on the ground level.”

Rezaei-Zare’s work focuses on how those geomagnetic disturbances are potentially dangerous fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetic fields, causing geomagnetically induced current (GIC) to flow through ground-level power systems, transmission lines and transformers. His research aims to focus on taking preventative measures and understanding the effects of space weather and resulting geomagnetic disturbances to help develop protection for vulnerable ground-level technologies. Those technologies which can be overwhelmed with thermal stress, damaging their functionality and leading to harmful effects such as large-scale power outages, as occured in Quebec in 1989 when a strong geomagnetic storm left the entire province without power for more than nine hours.

Using calculations, modelling techniques and computational tools, Rezaei-Zare analyzes the impacts of geomagnetic disturbances on various power systems, identifying components that are vulnerable to malfunction or damage from geomagnetically induced current.

In recent and ongoing research, much of it first-of-its-kind scientific literature, Rezaei-Zare has investigated the impacts of geomagnetically induced current on various equipment and systems, including transformers, generators, protection systems, renewable resources and High-Voltage DC (HVDC) systems.

This research provides crucial knowledge to manufacturers and power utility companies, allowing them to identify and protect their vulnerable equipment to better prepare for the potential effects of solar storms, allowing for updates to technical guides and standards for power equipment.

Leading research teams with domestic and international members and collaborators, Rezaei-Zare continues to work towards understanding geomagnetic disturbances and their impacts on power systems, to protect Earth from the harmful effects of solar storms and space weather.

“The GMD research is becoming more and more important, but there are very few experts in the field because of how many disciplines are involved in understanding this single area of research,” says Rezai-Zare. “I want to use my combined expertise to stimulate knowledge and increase understanding of this unfamiliar field.”

Project champions audiovisual heritage of minoritized communities

Film reel

Archive/Counter-Archive (A/CA): Activating Canada’s Moving Image Heritage is a seven-year research-creation project focusing on preserving the audiovisual cultural heritage of Indigenous Peoples (First Nations, Métis, Inuit), Black communities and people of colour, women, LGBTQ+ and immigrant communities. Two events at Congress 2023 will demonstrate its ongoing objectives.

Janine Marchessault
Janine Marchessault

“The project itself grew out of a crisis,” says Janine Marchessault, principal investigator and professor in the Department of Cinema & Media Arts at York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design. A/CA was created in 2018 with $2.499 million in funding from a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Grant. “As a film scholar doing a lot of research in archives, I kept hearing the same story that archives are completely underfunded,” she says, which has led to a negligence of Canada’s audio-visual heritage. Most at risk were materials belonging to marginalized communities.

“Archive/Counter-Archive rose out a sense that we have to do something,” says Marchessault. Since 2018, it has pursued its objective to activate and preserve the moving image heritage of those most vulnerable to disappearance and inaccessibility, along with pursuing educational outreach to promote greater archive care and use.    

In the process, A/CA aims to counter the hegemony of traditional archival institutions that have normally neglected marginalized communities, at the same time as offering education and advocacy.

In its first five years, A/CA has seen collaborations with dozens of community repositories, artists and archives. It has also helped create educational resources, host student and postdoctoral researchers, and support several case studies.

For example, there was the exhibition launch of “Inuuqatikka: My Dear Relations” in 2020, which featured work drawn from the archival materials of the world’s leading women-centered Inuit filmmaking collective, Arnait Video Productions. Another example is “AIDS Activist Media: Toronto Living with AIDS & Second Decade,” which looks at archival AIDS activist media in Toronto from the late 1980s and 1990s, including a public access cable television program called Toronto Living With AIDS, running 1990-91, as well as 10 public service announcements (PSAs) created by Canadian artists at Banff. Another case study by the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre (CFMDC) has focused on key Canadian LGBTQ+ films made between the mid-1970s and the early 2000s that lay dormant because queer works in the collection from this period exist solely on celluloid or outdated video formats.

A/CA’s work will also feature in two upcoming Congress 2023 events.

The first is a May 28 hybrid screening and live expanded cinema performance event – ticket price is $10 for the general public –featuring the work of artists: Lindsay McIntyre, a filmmaker and artist of Inuk and settler descent, who works primarily with analogue film drawn from archives, exploring place-based knowledge, portraiture and personal histories; and Peter Bussigel, a composer and intermedia artist working with sound, video and performance.

The event will screen projects – ranging from animated, documentary and live performance – produced by McIntyre, concerned with lost histories and intergeneration traumas of her Inuit matrilineal heritage, the beauty of her Inuk great grandmother’s beautiful beadworks, and the framework of tree/human relationships on unceded Pacheedaht territory at Fairy Creek.

The second Congress event, on May 29, will see the Film and Media Studies Association of Canada host a panel called “Making Counter-Archives: Artist-in-Residence as Research Methodology” (more information can be found here). Free for audience members who are Congress registrants, the panel is moderated by Marchessault and features four of A/CA’s current and previous artists-in-residence, allowing these artists an opportunity to discuss their experiences working with their hosting institutions and how it has informed their ongoing practice.

It is an event that represents something of an encapsulation of A/CA to encourage the preservation of the visual-media past of marginalized communities in order to promote their future. “The panel is about research methodology, bringing artists into archives to discover things and create bridges to the outside, to translate the material, to remediate them, and generate new things from the archives which is what Archive/Counter-Archive is about. It’s about generating new life for archives in the 21st century,” says Marchessault. 

Risk and Insurance Studies Centre receives $11M grant

Wildfire in the forest

Contributed by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Alliance (NSERC), the funding will go towards developing better ways of managing risk and protecting Canadians from increasing threats, such as pandemics, climate catastrophes and financial crises.

Professor Edward Furman of the Faculty of Science at York University leads the team at the Risk and Insurance Studies Centre (RISC) that will use the grant over five years for a new program called New Order of Risk Management (NORM): Theory and Applications in the Era of Systemic Risk. NORM looks to address an acute need for a fundamental transformation in how people think about and manage that risk. 

Edward Furman

“Risk management is key to promoting economic growth and improving welfare in Canada and in other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED) countries by taming conventional risks, but it has not had the desired results in today’s increasingly interconnected world. In fact, some call it a failure,” says Furman. “We hope to lead a paradigm shift around what constitutes best practices and regulation for systemic risk, one that has a broader view of what risk entails and that encompasses the complexity of its systemic nature.” 

Given recent socioeconomic, demographic, technological and environmental changes, the researchers say change is overdue. 

Systemic risks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the global financial crisis which started in 2007, often spill across socioeconomic boundaries, disproportionately impacting vulnerable populations and magnifying social inequities. The pandemic has already driven Canada’s annual deficit to $348 billion and its national debt is on target to hit $1.2 trillion, while the global financial crisis resulted in a severe recession with sharp declines in national gross domestic product. 

Climate change is creating multiple systemic risks as sea levels rise, wildfire season becomes longer with a greater potential for catastrophic fires and extreme weather events increase, such as flash flooding and storm surges, which can result in widespread devastation to coastal and inland communities in Canada and globally.  

A better understanding of systemic risk is needed, says the NORM team, which includes York Professors Jingyi Cao of the Faculty of Science, Ida Ferrara of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, Dirk Matten of the Schulich School of Business and Shayna Rosenbaum of the Faculty of Health, as well as professors from University of British, University of Toronto, University of Waterloo and Western University. 

With their industrial collaborators, the NORM team will develop novel theories, operational tools and regulatory mechanisms to address the increasing systemic nature of risks, while also accounting for unequal susceptibility to systemic risk, pursuing equity and building resilience.  

“NORM’s impacts mean not only an academic breakthrough in how we conceptualize systemic risk, but also fundamental transformations in how we manage and govern this new type of risk more effectively through strategies that reflect and consider equity and vulnerability,” says Furman.

Systemic risk is a global threat. NORM brings exceptional depth and breadth of relevant scholarly expertise from actuarial mathematics, business, economics, psychology and statistics together with industry collaborators, including Sun Life Financial, Canada Life, CANNEX Financial Exchanges, Aviva Canada and Wawanesa Insurance, to tackles the issues. 

Learn more at News @ York.

Lassonde professor receives grant for 3D/4D printing in space

View of the Earth from space

George Zhu from York University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering received a $250,000 New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) grant to conduct innovative research that explores metal manufacturing for space equipment using 3D and 4D printing in space to satisfy the actual demands of materials needed.

Zheng Hong (George) Zhu
George Zhu

Spacecrafts are frequently manufactured with extra materials and spare parts to prepare for potential mission challenges and vicious movements during launch, making them overdesigned for the calm, vacuum, zero-gravity environment in space. When the excess materials aren’t used, they contribute to unnecessary waste, financial burdens and launch and process-related carbon dioxide emissions on Earth.

“Less than five percent of spare parts carried on space missions are actually used,” says Zhu. “If equipment was manufactured where it is needed, we could make space exploration more sustainable.”

Zhu’s work will involve collaboration with fellow Lassonde School of Engineering mechanical engineering professors Alidad Amirfazli, Cuiying Jian and Aleksander Czekanski, as well as taking full advantage of the diverse fields of mechanical engineering research at York, including space instrumentation and robotics, molecular dynamics, metals and alloy materials and fluid mechanics.

“Space has different conditions than Earth that will affect 3D printing, mainly zero-gravity and vacuum, so there will be a lot of exploratory work,” says Zhu. “When we use 3D printing on Earth, the gravity helps create strong bonds, but we don’t know what will happen in conditions without gravity. It is possible that the vacuum might cause molten metals to vaporize and disappear right in front of us.

“We want this to work but at this stage, we don’t know what will happen. We are actually the first to do this kind of research with metals,” he adds.

Using equipment obtained with substantial funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) in 2019, this project will simulate space-like conditions to determine the feasibility of, and potential practices for, metal 3D printing in space. 3D printing will be performed in a large vacuum chamber, while modelling zero-gravity by printing in a horizontal orientation rather than vertical – this helps avoid the direct pressure from gravity that supports the creation of strong bonds.

The newly funded research will also explore the use of 4D printing, a new method of 3D printing that incorporates the dimension of time and may be useful in the development of deployable spacecraft components, like solar panels. Using shape memory alloys (SMA), 4D printed materials can remember and revert to their original shape after being deformed by certain stimuli, presenting a potential application for spacecrafts that spend long periods of time in space and are vulnerable to damage from debris.

Contributing to sustainable spacefaring effort, this exploratory project will take the first steps towards using space as an on-demand manufacturing site for space equipment. This project will also explore new and exciting ideas that can change and improve the design of space equipment, including the recycling of materials from debris to repair and manufacture materials for space activites.

“We have plans and ideas for applications, but this research is very new,” says Zhu. “I’m excited to learn as we go and discover the unknown. If this is successful, it will change the future of space exploration.”

Lassonde-funded course highlights colonial impact on Indigenous people

Notes lecture workshop meeting

Indigeneity and Decolonization in a North American Context, an eight-session course supported by Lassonde EDI Seed Funding, concluded its exploration of themes, methods and concepts in Indigenous studies and knowledge in relation to ideas in sociology.

The course, which successfully concluded in March, was open to the Lassonde community – including students, staff and faculty members. It focused on the “truth about colonialism,” based on Indigenous history and ethnographies, to demonstrate the impact of white colonial history on all Indigenous people, within a North American context.

Indigenous feminism and storytelling were at the forefront of this course, along with discussions about the colonial structures that have facilitated limited access to resources for Indigenous people with regard to employment, education, housing and more.

Jeffrey Harris
Jeffrey Harris
Emma Posca
Emma Posca

A significant portion also outlined the perspective of a settler scholar, as part of a decolonial movement, to teach the disruption of colonial policies, procedures and institutional structures that work towards the eradication, marginalization and oppression of Indigenous people in Canada. 

This course was a result of the successful application by Jeffrey Harris, associate professor and director of Common Engineering, as well as Emma Posca, a PhD candidate, former Lassonde staff member and current teaching assistant in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Posca led the course, drawing on her PhD work in the School of Gender, Feminist and Sexuality Studies, and her dissertation which uses theories, methods and concepts such as Indigenous feminism, allyship, intersectionality, critical race theory, ethnography, patriarchy, colonialism and decolonization.

The curriculum also included several guest speakers, including Alejandro Mayoral, executive director and founder at Indigenous Friends Association, and Jennifer Meness, Bawajigan Waabanong (Dreams Tomorrow’s Dawn) Migizi minwa Biné Dodemok from the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation and assistant professor of Indigenous studies at Toronto Metropolitan University.  

“I want to give a big thank you and shoutout to Emma Posca for organizing this course and sharing her knowledge with us,” says Harris. “I found that this learning opportunity was thought-provoking.”

Posca shared the spirit of gratitude. “The support shown to me by Harris has been unparalleled,” says Posca. “I also want to recognize Lassonde’s EDI Seed Funding that made this series possible. I am honoured and privileged to be a part of this initiative. All the participants joined class activities with enthusiasm and encouraged each other to learn, feel safe, share great ideas and get creative.” 

Indigeneity and Decolonization in a North American Context was one of six projects that received funding as part of the EDI Seed Funding Initiative introduced in 2022, to promote a culture of EDI at the School while helping to remove systemic barriers for faculty, students and staff in academia. “It is our responsibility to work towards Indigenization and decolonization of the macro (the academy) and the micro (the classroom) so that more Indigenous people can have places and spaces that are reflective and inclusive,” concluded Posca. “I will continue to work hard towards Indigenization and decolonization initiatives and encourage others to do the same through initiatives like this one.”

Learn more about Lassonde’s EDI Seed Funding and the application and review process.

Astronomers in Residence program returns for second year

The Orion Nebula - Allan I. Carswell Observatory
The Orion Nebula – Allan I. Carswell Observatory

The Astronomers in Residence (AIR) program, an initiative by the Allan I. Carswell Observatory, partners with the Killarney Provincial Park to enable astronomers to lead presentations and shows using the park’s observatory. It runs this year from May 1 to Oct. 15.

Launched in 2022, the program calls on qualified astronomers to apply to run in-person tours two to five times a week, create observatory shows, YouTube livestreams and recorded video sessions, as well as author a blog. AIRs are offered free parking and lodging, as well as a $400 per week stipend, for their one-to-three-week residency.

The first 2023 AIR is Bruce Waters, who has been teaching astronomy within the provincial park system since 1985. He is the co-founder of “Stars over Killarney,” an annual astronomy program featuring topics related to the park, and the author of Campers Guide to the Universe.

Among other confirmed AIRs are:

  • Conor Hayes, a York graduate with a master’s of science in physics and astronomy;
  • Quinton Weyrich, a York graduate who is now an Outreach Coordinator for the David Dunlap Observatory, and was an AIR in Killarney Provincial Park last summer;
  • Mary-Helen Armour, an associate professor in the Department of Science, Technology and Society at York; and
  • Julie Tome, a York graduate, lead educator at the Royal Ontario Museum and a returning AIR from last summer.

The full summer schedule can be found here.

Those interested in an AIR application for one of the remaining spots this summer and fall can do so here.

Throughout the duration of the program, those passionate about stargazing can follow along through the Astronomer in Residence Blog and livestreams on the Allan I. Carswell Observatory YouTube page.