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Jonathan Dunbar: Mathematics for Social Justice

Elevator pitch

Math is about studying structures and systems, so it can and should be used in our work for social justice.


One of my mathematical heroes, Dr. Francis Su (Harvey Mudd College) describes math as the study of patterns and the art engaging meaningfully with those patterns. We should practice that art to observe patterns in society, patterns of harm and marginalization, and then engage as a society to achieve equity. The most fundamental way to do this is through proportions. If we understand proportions, then we can see when treatment is disproportionate. Another way is by studying the political systems we live in. Historically, state district maps have been drawn in ways that disenfranchise voters and deflate the voting power of entire groups of people. I present a new method for determining whether or not a state's district map is drawn with a partisan bias.


Jonathan Dunbar is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at St. Norbert College. He loves teaching undergraduate mathematics courses at all levels, and especially those that allow him to work with curious students. Recently, he has offered a course titled Applications of Contemporary Mathematics, taught through mathematical applications tied to social justice. By training, Jonathan is a non-associative algebraist. Lately, however, his interests hew closer to the intersection of mathematics and society, namely voting and redistricting. Whenever possible, he looks to incorporate undergraduates in his research projects. Jonathan lives in De Pere with his partner, Lindsey, and their two kids, Everett and Levon.

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