This unit will be a way for students to understand and become actively engaged in one of the most pressing issues of our time. By analyzing the changes occurring in the Arctic, students will expand their view of mathematics and see how it can be used to make sense of an extremely unpredictable and uncertain context. Math, rather than be confined to the analysis of isolated problems, will become a means of understanding broad environmental, economic, and geopolitical concerns. Mathematics will become a means of understanding changes that will influence for years to come the way humans in the Arctic interact with and survive in their environment.
The unit will primarily be geared towards students in geometry and will therefore be structured to make use of geometric properties and basic algebraic skills. It is hoped that the unit will also, through simple adjustments, be scalable to algebra II or precalculus classes. The unit will serve to reinforce, deepen, and extend mathematical concepts that students have already seen in a more focused and skill-based context. The goal is not to teach new mathematical content, but rather to get students thinking about and working with mathematics in a broader and more meaningful setting. For this reason, the teacher's role will resemble that of a guide, facilitator, and helper. Each lesson will have a clear task and a concrete set of deliverables (including assessments), but there will also be ample room for students to take initiative and exercise a sizeable amount of independence in how they approach the learning activities.
A guiding principle in this unit is the idea of mathematics as a stabilizing and clarifying force. The world we live in - and the Arctic in particular - is saturated with complexities that defy simple and complete explanations. Uncertainties are a natural and inevitable part of daily life. It is a goal of mathematics to clarify some of these questions and allow individuals and social groups to make informed decisions about the present and the future. Only by looking at data and using basic mathematical principles can some degree of order be constructed from the constant chaos around us. This guiding principle will help students grapple with the question any math teacher is sure to get "when are we ever going to use this stuff?