The late James Stewart was a man of many talents and interests.

He graduated with a master of science from Stanford and a doctor of philosophy from the University of Toronto. For a period of time during his three decades as a professor at McMaster, Stewart was also a member of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra as a violinist.

He became known as an LGBT activist as he helped launch the Pride movement in Hamilton through his own participation in protests and demonstrations and through inviting Toronto activist George Hislop to speak at the university in the early 1970s.

“He was partially responsible for gay rights in Canada. At a meeting he had with George Hislop, this later created the first Pride parade in Hamilton, which was one of the first parades outside of a major city,” said Joseph Clement, the director of the documentary, Integral Man.

It was during this time at McMaster when two of his students came up to him and recommended he write a textbook. His notes were better than what was in their assigned text. After seven years, the first textbook of around 30 was complete and became an enormous success. “Calculus: Early Transcendentals” in particular remains influential for the teaching of mathematics.

The Integral House, one of the primary reasons for the documentary, is a five-storey structure that took 10 years and $32 million to make. Combining his love for music and mathematics, the house is considered to be a masterpiece of modern architecture.

Built around a 150 seat concert hall, this 18,000 square foot house is built into a hillside in the Rosedale neighbourhood of Toronto. Integral curves inspire the complete design, particularly for its walls and stairs. While a resident in the house, Stewart hosted about a dozen events per year.

Though the documentary was originally meant to focus on the house and his accomplishments, and still does so, Stewart’s health began to deteriorate. His arthritis resulted in the inability to play the violin. He was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. It shows his struggle with the inability to enjoy his loves like he used to, and his last hosted events.

“... he seemed pretty satisfied with his life and what he did. He lived his life without regret,” said Clement.

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On Mar. 23, the Ontario government announced a plan to make financial literacy a component of the new curriculum for the Grade 10 Careers course. This is welcome news. I entered university with next to no understanding of finance, personal or otherwise, and could have done without the onslaught of BuzzFeed-style personality quizzes doled out in my careers class.

The announcement to rectify this knowledge gap at elementary and high school levels is a commendable one. The idea of incoming first years understanding how to manage their finances is appealing.

But this announcement and this commitment to change at the high school level are not enough.

Students are taught from an early age to be afraid of anything related to math, numbers and even simple arithmetic. This is presumably because, for generations, teachers have been taught to be afraid of doing, and, for that matter, teaching math. That has real, tangible effects and nowhere is this easier to spot than in teachers’ colleges.

In an effort to equip student teachers with basic numeracy skills, some universities are scrambling to develop crash courses and last-minute reviews. Queen’s University is creating a new class on essential numeracy skills for all primary school teachers. Lakehead University distributes a mandatory two-hour math competency exam for teachers aiming for Grade 1 to 10 classrooms where calculators are prohibited and, according to a Toronto Star report, about one-third of students fail the test the first time around.

While McMaster does not have a specific education program, many grads see teaching as a career they wish to pursue following their undergrad. But if those prospective teachers are pursuing teaching from humanities or social sciences, they are potentially lacking in both math skills and confidence. The average Bachelor of Arts degree does not require students to take multiple, if any, mathematics courses. This means that the last math courses they took could be as far back as their final mandatory Grade 11 math class.

Couple that with the infuriating stereotype that arts students pursue reading and writing because they can’t do more advanced arithmetic, and the university is setting future teachers and future students up for failure.

This is pervasive at McMaster. From Welcome Week presentations and cheers to the deans of Faculty of Humanities dedicating their speeches at awards ceremonies to jokes about arts students’ poor math skills, the myth that humanities and social sciences students are neither smart enough nor dedicated enough to excel in mathematics is offensive and hurtful.

As a student whose program bridges humanities and science disciplines, this is particularly upsetting. I was required to take a university level math course for my degree. During the time that I was in Math 1M03, I had to block out jabs from peers in both STEM faculties and my own to remind myself that I could pass a math course.

It’s fantastic that the Ministry of Education wants students to graduate to adulthood with some basic financial skills in their tool belt. As these math review courses in education faculties at various universities become more entrenched, I think we will see a difference both in teachers’ and students’ confidence in their math skills. But before that happens, we need to see a lot of changes on a lot of levels of administration.

At the university level, undergraduates in arts programs don’t need to hear the jokes about how bad they are at math. They don’t need to hear them from their peers and they absolutely do not need to hear that from the heads of their faculties. It’s insulting. It’s condescending. And it perpetuates a wide range of other stereotypes about gender and demographics that are more numerous and complicated than I can address in one article.

Math is hard, sure. But so is reading over 100 pages of courseware a week. So is writing so many essays a semester that you develop a formula for two, three, four thousand word papers.

Academic challenge shouldn’t be scary. And no one should make that clearer to students than their teachers, no matter the level of education.

J.J. Bardoel
Silhouette Intern

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When rushing to their next class, students may tend to look past all of the history on campus. However, for those who walk through Hamilton Hall may find it almost impossible to ignore the large statue. The statue of Greek mathematician Anatolius is still a relatively new addition to the vast collection of sculptures and statues scattered throughout McMaster.

Created over a span of two years, numerous faculty members and Hamilton artists Bryan Kanbara and Brian Kelly collaborated on the sculpture to create a piece which appealed to other members of the McMaster community, not just those who thrive in mathematics.

“The sculpture represents Anatolius of Alexandria, a 2 A.D. mathematician who was [canonized] for his peace-making activity,” said Kanbara. “This adds a human-ness to the theme of mathematics and gives it a poetic glow.”

The artists wanted the sculpture to represent the fact that mathematics was predominantly experienced in class. The three-piece sculpture has mathematical equations covering the majority of its body.

Months prior to the unveiling in January 2008, faculty began visiting the studio where the sculpture was held, writing their own equations on the robes, and primary school students’ schoolwork was projected onto the sculpture and drawn on. These equations vary in difficulty, representing how all different people have partaken in mathematics.

Comprised using old-fashion methods at the two artists James Street North studio, the sculpture was pieced together, with wood, Styrofoam, epoxy resin, fiberglass, latex and spray enamel paint making up the body.

Artistically, the sculpture is a unique combination of different styles. Some areas are statuesque, while others are more abstract. The elements of the stature were meant to contrast the modern architecture of the interior of Hamilton Hall, officially known as the James Stewart Center.

The globe which hovers over the sculpture is a common symbol associated with Anatolius and the book the sculpture is holding is a James Stewart textbook, the sponsor of the creation. The cherub, found a level above the main portion of the statue, acts as another reflection of the mathematician’s sainthood, extending a halo down upon the figure.

The sculpture currently rests in a light well within Hamilton Hall, making it a very distinct sight for visitors of the building.

“We wanted Anatolius to be a surprising encounter for first time viewers,” said Kanbara. “And a comforting, large presence for frequenters of the building.”

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