Research Into Culture and Identity

What’s fascinating when a mathematician and a physicist talk about the math that is used in physics is that we often use a set of words that mean something different to each person in the conversation. A physicist sees nothing wrong with putting the x-value on the y-axis of a graph, when x is measuring distance and time is on the x-axis. This can drive mathematicians batty. These are cultural issues. Within our disciplines, we have certain cultural ways of doing things that make sense to us and aren’t even questioned – until we interact with people from different cultures. Given the need for interdisciplinary knowledge in society, and for learning across the disciplines, we need to understand the ways that cultures differ and how what kinds of things help us bridge our differences. In physics, for example, students are often asked to use the math they’ve learned differently from how they learned it – how can we help them do that?

To learn more about this area of research, contact Michael Wittmann.