Dr. Sarah Mason, mathematics professor and CEES faculty, was featured in the Office of Sustainability’s Faces of Sustainability last week for her emphasis on sustainability and resource efficiency in the classroom. Her personal passion for sustainability fused with her expertise in math, culminating in a first-year seminar titled Counting on Sustainable Energy: Does It Add Up? In this study, students apply elementary math skills to better understand the efficacy of sustainable energy.

Dr. Mason says, “I realized…to get a sense of what’s going on, you can use fairly simple math.  I decided that would be a great place to bring in students, to give them the confidence to apply straightforward mathematics to analyze complex situations.” In the class, students learn to investigate the practicality of alternative energy sources in order to discover if they really do save energy, money, and resources using basic functions such as addition, multiplication, and division.

At the end of the semester, each student writes a final paper justifying if these alternative energy sources are a feasible option for Wake Forest University. If they believe it is feasible, students must write a convincing energy plan for the university. If they do not, they must write a new plan for ways to reduce energy consumption.

This type of hands-on and practical education shows how CEES Faculty seek a convergence between the reality of sustainable practices with their own conceptual fields.  How math is related to energy, the environment, and sustainability is just one facet of this growing synthesis of research fields. Read more on Dr. Mason’s work on Faces of Sustainability here.