UBC and UBCO math teachers who want to use their math skills for good have collaborated with climate scientists to bring the climate crisis into their classrooms.
Math and climate action
More than 5,000 undergraduate students across several math classes this year will learn the tools needed to describe, understand and develop solutions to the climate crisis through problem sets, assignments, modules and activities.
Family was a motivator for two of the professors involved. “It was my daughter and my wife who kicked my butt to do something more useful with my mathematics,” said Dr. Brian Marcus, UBC site director of the Pacific Institute for Mathematical Sciences.
“I felt terrible I wasn’t doing anything about climate change and I have kids. My colleague suggested I do something about it in my classes,” said Dr. Sven Bachmann, associate professor in the department of mathematics.
Real-world problem sets
The problem sets, developed by undergraduate student Raphael Kelly (he/him), include explaining the role of carbon dioxide in the greenhouse effect, as well as the ‘tipping points’ of the Earth’s energy balance that affects the planet’s temperature. “From a scientific perspective, it’s good to see ‘these are the mechanisms that lead to climate change, this is the data, we can see there’s a clear pattern here, this is something we should care about’,” Kelly said.
By targeting students from various disciplines, the teachers hope to show students that humanity has the tools to describe and explain climate change, and to work towards solutions.
Climate action in all undergrad math classes
The researchers plan to organize workshops to help students deal with climate anxiety, and aim to roll the modules out to the entire math undergraduate curriculum at UBC in the next two years.
Interview language(s): English (Bachmann, Kelly, Marcus), French (Bachmann)