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The Boston Common — a Mathematical Wonder

SED’s Carol Findell takes her students on a mathematical tour of Boston.


When Carol Findell wanders through the Boston Public Garden and the Boston Common, she discovers more than the average sightseer does. To her, these parks are not only overflowing with history and beauty — they’re filled with mathematics.

Last Tuesday, Findell, a School of Education clinical associate professor of curriculum and teaching, took her Problem-Solving Lab class to the parks for a  “mathematical-historical” tour, as she has done for the past four years.

The tour includes lower-level problems — such as determining the ratio of the size of the bronze mother duck to her ducklings in the Public Garden — and more advanced problems appropriate for high school students. The 21 questions were written by Carole Greenes, a retired SED professor of curriculum and teaching and former associate dean of the school.

“I’m trying to help education majors see how math is everywhere,” Findell says, “and how they can find math around them to help their students.” The 20 undergraduates and graduate students in the class will devise their own mathematical tours, complete with packets of information that include maps, drawings, diagrams, and photographs. Findell says that students have received job offers based on the creativity of these tours. Previous student tours have included the BU Fitness and Recreation Center, Amory Park in Brookline, the Museum of Science, and Faneuil Hall.

Rebecca McNamara can be reached at ramc@bu.edu.