Building the Alliance of Indigenous Math Circles
540 Notices of the AmericAN mAthemAticAl society Volume 66, Number 4 To say that US Native Americans are underrepresented in mathematics is itself an understatement. In 2010 the census recorded 5.2 million people in the United States who identified as American Indian or Alaskan Native, either alone or in combination with one or more other races. Of those, a mere twelve hold a mathematics PhD.1 Compare this with Hungary, which has almost twice the population—9.8 million. From 1993 to the present, 460 mathematics PhDs were awarded there.2 (We looked for the total number of living people with PhDs, but these data were not available.) Kazakhstan has just over three times the population, 17.8 million, with people in rural and remote areas. Four hundred Kazakhstanis hold PhDs in mathematics.3 Were we to regard the US Native American/Alaskan Native population as a nation, Hungary and Kazakhstan suggest that we would expect to see between 160 and 244 mathematics PhD holders in that nation. We clearly have a long road to go to match Hungary or Kazakhstan. But why does this comparison matter? When a distinct group of people, in this case marked by their identification as American Indians or Alaskan Natives, do not participate in mathematics, the question that arises naturally is, “Why?” Biological explanations are both racist and scientifically unsupported, though science took some centuries to Building the Alliance of Indigenous Math Circles.