Are you looking for a world-class social justice application

of algebra that your students can understand and use in situations they see

going on around them, in stories online and on tv?

The world’s leading humanitarian organization, United Nations

World Food Programme (WFP), was the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and 2021

Edelman Prize winner for the most creative and impactful application of

Mathematical Modeling and Data Analytics. WFP is saving and changing lives by

delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to

improve nutrition and build resilience. While working to reach their ultimate

goal of zero hunger, WFP assisted nearly 100 million people across 88 countries

in 2020. Analytics has supported WFP’s management of its vast and complex

humanitarian operations, helping it reach more people, respond faster in emergencies,

and realize significant savings that are used to improve lives and empower

communities.

In this installment, we provide access to:

- For the classroom: How systems

of inequalities are more valuable than equations in teaching - The REAL “real world” description

of the humanitarian effort to achieve zero hunger - In search of the Golden

Nugget: A technical paper regarding the mathematical modeling utilized by

the UN WFP - In His Own Words: Koen

Peters, Head of Development for Supply Chain Planning & Optimization and

developer of the mathematical modeling effort utilized by WFP, is featured

on Resoundingly Human podcast - And the Winner Is: United Nations World Food Programme video

of its Edelman Competition Presentation

**For The Classroom: Systems vs.
Equations**

In my previous blog, I challenged math educators to remove

absurd examples that use simultaneous equations to find answers for things that

could be simply counted. Needless to say, I was chagrined but not surprised

when I read a recent math education article that used the “classic” example of

a farmer who counted the number of heads and feet on the pigs and chickens in

the barnyard. I envisioned the farmer lying on the ground with his sight

obscured, trying to count and keep track of the animal legs in the yard.

Imagine the farmer’s consternation when the leg count was an odd number. What

was he to do? Start counting over! Or look for the animal with a missing limb.

I guess this problem is supposed to show that algebra is relevant to

agriculture.

I countered with a product planning example in which all

resources must be used to produce two different products. The “must use all”

requirement creates a system of “equations.” In the literature of actual linear

programming case studies, inequalities play a much more significant role than

equations. Limited resources are often represented as upper bound constraints

and lower bound inequality constraints that define minimum requirements. To see

high school level examples of meaningful systems of inequalities, download a free sample of

Mathematical Modeling with Algebra, a textbook designed to resonate with

high school students’ interests and demonstrate the broad applicability of

mathematics.

**Humanitarian
Operations and Analytics**

ORMS Today is a professional magazine published by INFORMS,

carrying stories about math modeling projects with broad current interest

written in a straightforward, approachable manner. The UN World Food Programme

was featured in the June 4,

2021 issue. The article highlights the tools and partnerships developed to

strive toward their Zero Hunger goal amid a global pandemic.

**In search
of the Golden Nugget**

Not all high-brow, dry, technical papers should be

automatically dismissed when considering material for classroom use. This paper,

The

Nutritious Supply Chain: Optimizing Humanitarian Food Assistance, published

in INFORMS Journal on Optimization **Vol. 3, No. 2**,

discusses the mathematical modeling example used by WFP to reach across 80

countries to provide approximately 90 million people with food. To understand

the entire paper, you would need an advanced background in mathematical

modeling. However, high school teachers can use the algebraic representations on

pages 218-224 of the article to illustrate real-world systems of inequalities.

These pages provide examples of lower bound constraints on the nutritional

content of food baskets and upper bound constraints on available food supplies.

**In His
Own Words**

Koen Peters,

Head of Development for Supply Chain Planning & Optimization at World Food

Programme, leader of the UN WFP mathematical modeling effort, and TEDx speaker

was interviewed earlier this year by INFORMS’ Ashley Kilgore

for her podcast Resoundingly

Human. Tune in to hear Koen’s perspective on the vital work the WFP team is

doing, the role analytics plays in this humanitarian effort, and the honor of

being considered for the 2021 Edelman Award.

**And the
Winner Is**

As part of the competition for the 2021 Edelman Prize, the

UN WFP team produced this

compelling presentation video. The exhibit highlights the challenges faced,

the strategies used, the overall impact, and WFP’s continuing use of analytics.

Koen briefly discusses the actual math model used at minute 13 of the video. How

can you imagine using it in your classroom?

As you can see, there can and should be more than “math for

math’s sake” in the classroom. As teachers, we have endless possibilities to

engage and challenge our students with examples of problems they will find

compelling.