Most of my life I’ve had to hear about a false dichotomy between skilled writers and skilled problem solvers. More specifically how people who are excellent at writing and English aren’t necessarily skilled in Math. I’ve also heard the converse in terms of people skilled in Math: they aren’t so skilled English. I want to break down these false barriers between Math and English. Wanting to down these walls between these subject areas informs some of the proposal ideas I have for the University of Cincinnati’s Spring of 2013 Graduate Conference called “Being Undisciplined”.
One of my ideas involves discussing how I use Mathematical and algebraic examples as analogies to how to compose and progress a written argument to a rhetorical or text-based conclusion. For example, I might show a science or math student an equation like x^2+ 2x+1=0 and then solve it. I use this example as a springboard to discuss how solving a math problem is akin to progression through an argument. Particularly how the answer, like a rhetorical conclusion, reveals not only a possible solution, but also an illustration of how the conclusion differs from the premises, or introduction and body of the paper.
Another idea I’m considering is to involve conference members through a logical progression exercise for composing sentences. More specifically, I will have the audience members brainstorm a set of topic sentences focused around the same idea. Then I will help the audience write a group of sentences linking the topic sentences together. How does this connect to Math? Well, it relates to Logic more than to Math specifically. In terms of logic, consciously linking one sentence to the next one relates to both Martha Kolnn’s concept of the Old/New Contract as well as the concept of the Causal Chain found in the study of deductive and inductive logic. The Causal Chain concept helps writers conceptualize the logical progression of their overall argument. Similarly Kolnn’s Old/New Concept allows the writing to move through and connect one’s ideas in a linear and lucid way. In fact, I could use the same set of topic sentences twice: the first set for the Causal Chain exercise, and the second set for the Old/New Contract exercise.
These are just two proposal ideas I have connecting Math/Logic and Rhetoric for UC’s Being Undisciplined conference for this upcoming Spring semester. I’ll post more ideas later.