By Way of Explanation

July 2010


A few years ago when sharing my work with the Ouro Preto Math Trail at a meeting in Nepal an audience member asked me about my math trail in Sacramento.  I had to pause, and after a bit of professorial hemming and hawing I rather sheepishly admitted to a nasty secret “that, I, well, I, uh… don’t have one”.

When I returned home I outlined a new course EDTE 18: Mathematical Practices across Cultures. The course was accepted and the students and I went to work, exploring day to day possibilities, creating mathematical models, and increasing awareness about the mathematics around us, some of what you see here.

How did all of this begin? First of all, this is not an original idea. I owe a great deal to the work of Kay Toliver, who inspired me many years ago when I first heard her speak at a California Mathematics Council conference. Her award winning film "Good Morning Miss Toliver" became a staple of my methods courses, where she demonstrates the work of her students at East Harlem Tech, and the Math Trails they constructed.

Though the seeds to the Sacramento State Math Trail were planted in Nepal, the idea actually came from a year abroad in Brasil. During the 2005-2006 academic year I was guest of the Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto under the auspices of Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico do Brasil.  During my time in Ouro Preto I was able to construct a website and organize students into groups and gather a great deal of data. Together we explored the math we found in the cobblestones, arches, spirals and addresses of Ouro Preto.  Some of the groups produced some very good models that you can see on the A Trilha da Matemática de Ouro Preto  // The Ouro Preto Math Trail  Website

The next summer, the good people at Kathmandu University in Nepal invited me as a Fulbright Senior Specialist to spend six weeks working with the ethnomathematics group. Together, we developed a series of investigations that the "lads" and I put together, some of which  are in various forms of repair and can be found at the The Kathmandu Univeristy Math Trail website.

What you see here is a modest collection of work from my students at California State University, Sacramento.  Over time, I hope this trail will grow to provide a number of models and activities that teachers anywhere may use and adapt to their own campus and student population.

Kay Toliver says, "In this activity, I saw a way to get my students working with each other, a way to have them become active learners, and a way to increase their respect for their own community." 

This is my hope, this is my goal.


Daniel Clark Orey, Ph.D., Project Coordinator

California State University, Sacramento