Finding Your Roots

My previous post was about routes; this one is about roots.

It’s not clear to me why it has taken me until Season 3 to start watching “Finding Your Roots,” a well-known series on PBS hosted by Skip Gates. This fascinating show has something for everyone to watch and think about. It provides a lot of opportunities for teaching and learning — although the teaching opportunities may seem a bit slim for a math teacher, especially in a geometry class.

If you think that the primary purpose of a geometry class is to learn about shapes, then the relevance indeed seems slim. But the primary purpose of a geometry class is actually to learn about reasoning, about supporting your claims with evidence. In the immortal words of W.S. Gilbert, “things are seldom what they seem”; that’s as true in genealogy as it is in geometry. (I’ll strenuously resist making any puns about finding your roots when using the Pythagorean Theorem.) Using evidence that ranges from ships’ manifests to old newspaper articles to DNA, Gates and his associates uncover results that his guests may or may not want to hear. (I’m looking at you, Ben Affleck.)

No matter what Donald Trump might say, we are a nation of immigrants. Our ancestors all have stories to tell us. This show helps to sort truth from fiction.

Categories: Life, Movies & (occasionally) TV, Teaching & Learning