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Special Issue of the CODEE Journal, "Linking Differential Equations to Social Justice and Environmental Concerns"

From the Foreward, by Karen Allen Keene,  to Special Issue of the CODEE Journal, "Linking Differential Equations to Social Justice and Environmental Concerns," a Special Issue of the CODEE Online Journal Volume 12, Issue 1, 2019 In honor of its founder, Professor Robert Borrelli.

"About two months ago, towards the end of the semester, I sat in a Differential Equations classroom conducting an interview with a group of students. We talked about many things that were connected to learning how to solve differential equations and systems of differential equations in a student-centered classroom. But the most exciting aspect of the conversation was about how differential equations uses mathematics to address the issues of our world. The students, many mathematics majors, but also other science and engineering majors, were happy to talk about how they solved the differential equations, but the discussion did not stop there! They talked with me about working together on problems of population growth, and climate change, and other questions that involve finding answers to society’s and Earth’s issues. These students, who were all from underrepresented groups in STEM, showed how they are developing mathematical identities that includes being mathematical problem solvers to make a difference.

"I think this story illustrates why this particular new CODEE special issue is so relevant and stimulating. Differential equations and difference equations and their systems provide many answers to describing and predicting what goes on in our world. Once we can describe and predict what is happening, it leads us far into how to address important concerns. Traditionally, all this work goes on in advanced applied mathematics education and in industry. This special issue includes amazing work that highlights how using differential equations can be used for real good in undergraduate mathematics education. For example, there are differential equations which students investigate that can stir the students (and instructors) in new ways that transcend the traditional curriculum of finding closed solutions to the selected differential equations and systems that can be solved. Often for the first time, students can see that mathematics, beautiful in so many ways, also brings ways to understand and change our actual real world.

"In this special issue, both social justice and the environment are investigated so that students can become invested in using mathematics to address problems. There is a paper where students investigate climate change and grow to understand how small changes in ecosystems have large overall effects. There is a paper on how spreading lies and the influence on social justice can be studied through differential equations, bringing issues of social justice to light. And there are nine more just as interesting and compelling! The chapters come from authors around the world, showing how we are all in this together- -- bringing students into the splendid world of applied mathematics to make a difference. As I looked at the different inquiries addressed, and the many pedagogies and technologies that are used to provide students the means to address the inquiries, my belief that now is the time to make a difference by teaching differential equations has been strengthened. As I mentioned in the opening, students are challenged to use mathematics that was not considered accessible to them years ago. It provides instructors with 11 grand ideas on how to make that happen. And in the end, it affects the number of new mathematicians that are in the game to change our world. Thank you for this new issue, all you authors and editors. Professor Robert Borrelli, to whom this issue is dedicated, would be proud. Those who read it and use the ideas cannot help but be affected for better!"

Karen Allen Keene Next CODEE Editor-in-Chief Program Director, NSF Division of Undergraduate Education North Carolina State University January, 2019.

In the interest of full disclosure Karen Keene is the Program Officer for the DUE grant that funds many of the SIMIODE activities. We appreciate Karen's professional and personal support. More important, we value her vision, energy, and conviction that differential equations can be taught in context and for good cause!

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