Teaching Resources for Embedding Ethics in Mathematics: Exercises, Projects, and Handouts

Published on 16 October 2023


The resources compiled in this document provide an approach to embed and teach Ethics in Mathematics at the undergraduate level. This is a collection of exercises, projects, and handouts, for those wishing to integrate and embed ethics into the teaching of mathematics or related courses with significant mathematical content (e.g., physics, engineering, computer science, economics), facilitating the formation of courses with embedded ethics throughout. All questions and projects are designed to train ethical awareness and reasoning skills. They are designed to teach transferable skills that promote civic engagement of the students by educating them about the role that mathematics and mathematicians play in modern societies. All resources build on recent research in ethics in mathematics, ethnomathematics, mathematics for social justice and other related areas.

These exercises and problems are relevant to many of the standard courses one might see in the first two years of a degree with significant mathematical content. The level of mathematics in these exercises is comparable to most standard undergraduate mathematics exercises. Each exercise contains, in its own way, some ethical aspect or problem woven into the question, in such a way that to complete the mathematics requires this aspect to be considered and addressed by the student. Ethics is not simply bolted on; it is fully embedded into the exercise. We have covered the core areas of the early years of a mathematics degree. These include topics and subjects in both pure and applied mathematics, including physics, statistics and optimisation.

Using this resource does not require a redesign of any degree curriculum, nor any reworking of any course syllabus. These are standalone exercises and projects that can simply be plugged into existing courses. The exercises can be lifted and used directly in existing exercise or homework sheets, group work problems, and seminars. No additional mathematical teaching is needed beyond the standard courses, and the ethical aspects presented should be understandable and accessible to all students. The exercises come with fully worked solutions, as well as significant commentary surrounding the ethical and social issues raised. The Creative Commons license is sufficiently generous to allow all use, subject to the license conditions of attribution and re-licensing.

We formulated these questions based on our many years of experience teaching mathematics, and our many years working on the Ethics in Mathematics Project. We hope that this resource facilitates more extensive inclusion of ethical teaching and training into mathematically-based university degrees around the world. It is a resource that we wish we had many years ago, and we now make it available to everyone.

This is a living document, and contributions such as additional exercises and content from those in the community are welcome. It builds on and complements other more research and practice oriented toolkits, such as our Manifesto for the Responsible Development of Mathematical Works. 

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