The on-wiki version of this newsletter can be found here:
A few weeks ago in this newsletter we discussed inclusion and diversity in
and how mathematics, often without bad intentions, functioned as a barrier
towards inclusion and diversity in coding. One question we may raise is how
come that mathematics itself can become a barrier to diversity? Why would
the colour of your skin or your gender make any difference when we are
talking about such a pure discipline as mathematics, which seems detached
from the arbitrary discriminations we humans far too often employ in our
society. Aren’t numbers and angles and derivatives all the same to all
This September saw the publication of Jessica Nordell
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jessica_Nordell>’s book *The End of Bias: A
Beginning*. One of the stories she tells in the book is about Federico
Ardila <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federico_Ardila>, professor of
mathematics at the San Francisco State University. Mathematics as an
academic field struggles with diversity, just as Computer Science does:
most are White or Asian, most are men. Among Ardila’s students, though, 60%
come from ethnic minority groups. Ardila worked hard to reimagine what
teaching mathematics could mean.
He made mathematics personal and relatable. The students were allowed to
bring their whole self to the university, and to learn math in ways that
matter to them. He made sure to keep the toxicity and brashness which far
too often permeates mathematical culture out of his classroom. Avoiding
phrases such as *“It is obvious”* or *“It is easy to see”* helped to not
alienate students who were challenged by an argumentation. He started a
joint class with the Universidad de los Andes
many of his latino students used their mother tongue, Spanish, for the
first time to speak and think about higher mathematics.
Research shows that having a sense of belonging, feeling accepted, helps
people to persist and stay motivated. And the numbers speak for Ardila’s
approach: of the 21 students in the first joint class, 14 are already
professors. An astonishing success.
You can read the story about Ardila and his approach to teaching in the
In related news, last week also saw the release of the first draft of
Conscious Computing <https://criticallyconsciouscomputing.org/>* book by
Amy J. Ko, Anne Beitlers, Brett Wortzman, Matt Davidson, Alannah Oleson,
Mara Kirdani-Ryan, and Stefania Druga. The book is available for free on
the Web. The goal of the book is to teach Computer Science in secondary
education while honing the critical abilities of the students, *“with the
hope of fostering a more equitable, culturally sustaining, and just future
Whereas the target population of the book are high school teachers, it
provides a unique lens on a wide selection of topics: it covers algorithms,
data structures, abstraction, and everything else needed for a full basic
course on computer science.
Let us all together be mindful of aiming for equity and inclusion. Let us
avoid toxicity and brashness in our language and acknowledge that we all
come from different backgrounds and start with different pieces of the
puzzle. Many who have been active Wikipedians for a while might have
noticed that sometimes the projects allow for exclusionary behaviour
particularly from contributors who have been very active on the projects.
We tend to overlook the behaviour of some, instead of gently but firmly
guiding them to stay as productive members and become friendly ones too.
This also means not to expect perfection: we will all make mistakes, will
communicate less than perfectly, use the wrong language. Let us all be
willing to listen and learn.
With Wikifunctions we have one of the few opportunities to start a new
Wikimedia community. And our early interactions will have an outsized
effect on the development of the project and its community. Let us aim
towards being particularly nice to each other, to be welcoming and tolerant
to those that are different from us as we are to our friends, and draw firm
lines against patterns of behaviour and against language that turns out to
be exclusionary and discouraging. The challenge we are facing is formidable
enough as it is.
We know and understand that the community of Wikifunctions, like all
Wikimedia communities, is self-governing and autonomous. It is not the
development team that will write the rules and processes of the wiki. But
we want to accompany you and offer help and resources towards becoming the
best community we could be. To make sure that this challenging project
builds a community that is up for the task.
We are going to have our next office hour
<https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Abstract_Wikipedia#Office_hours> on 20
December, 2021, at 19:00 UTC <https://zonestamp.toolforge.org/1640026842>.
Like last time, the office hour will be in IRC and also bridged to
Telegram. We will start by summarising our work since the last office hour,
and then be open for any questions.
The discussion about licensing the components of Wikifunctions and Abstract
still ongoing. Whereas the wide strokes seem settled, we are still looking
particularly for input regarding the license for Implementations of
Functions written in code (should that be Apache or GPL?) and regarding
Abstract Content for Abstract Wikipedia (should that be CC BY-SA or CC 0?).
Even if you don’t have an opinion about the license, we would like to hear
your opinion on wiki, in order to understand what the community thinks. Our
plan is to summarise the discussion and opinions towards the end of the
next week, that is, probably on December 16, to leave the draft summary and
draft decision up until December 20, and finalise the decision just after
or during the office hour, assuming the feedback is positive.
Please join the discussion and let us hear your voice.