The Portrayal of Mathematicians and Mathematics in Popular Culture

Kimberly Barba


Mathematicians are often inimically portrayed in popular culture, resulting in an abundance of non-mathematical identities in the classroom. Various tropes are propagated by the media that dominate our mental schemas of what makes a mathematician: the eccentric Einstein-like old man; the young, tortured genius; and the “genetically different” savant. However, these portrayals in popular culture can be used as a tool—rather than a hindrance—if teachers know how to present them properly in the classroom. Although the media often promotes mathematical myths, it can also be used to debunk them.

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