Flint, MI— Kettering University is offering a new elective this fall that teaches students how math combined with communication can inform critical issues like racial justice, voting, human trafficking, and climate change. 

The course, entitled Math for Social Justice, fuses math modeling, statistics, and data with communication techniques to show students how to enact change and persuade others.  

“We firmly believe any really effective intervention in a social and political context needs both parts of the equation,” Liberal Arts Department Chairman and Communications Professor Babak Elahi said in a press release. 

Math can model social justice issues in a concrete way, Mathematics Department Chairman and Applied Mathematics Professor Leszek Gawarecki said in a press release. Gawarecki will also be one of the professors teaching the course. 

“Just emotional discussions are insufficient because whatever I say, anyone can say the opposite. Once we have a model and data, things are kind of fixed. I know one can say that the data is fake or it’s a bad model, but this is the point to let students understand that not all models are bad and some are useful,” Gawarecki said. 

An example is using math to study voting systems. 

“Math can prove the way we vote here is unique in the world,” Gawarecki said. “It has advantages because it’s extremely simple, but of course, it has drawbacks too, so we’re going to explore other ways and voting systems, so that if all candidates have the same support, another candidate wins.” 

The class will also host guest speakers on an array of topics. 

“We want students to walk away from this feeling a sense of agency like they can do something about those issues that matter to them. Like they can take the skills they’ve learned in science, math, humanities and social science and use them effectively to make the world a better place,” Elahi said. “It’s about more than a career path; it’s a social responsibility and life path.”

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...