Maths Day

On 14 March 2022, UNESCO is billed to launch a document to encourage decision makers to use mathematics, as part of commemorating the “2022 International Mathematics Day”.

On March 14, 2022, UNESCO will release an open access toolkit called “Mathematics for Action: Supporting Science-Based Decision Making”.

The toolkit consists of a collection of two-page fact sheets highlighting the role of mathematics in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda.

It is intended for policy makers, scientific advisors, technical advisors, scientific officers, parliamentarians and diplomats. In general, it is designed to inform a non-specialist audience of the many applications of mathematics and statistics in areas relevant to the SDGs.

Toolkit part of IYBSSD2022

“Mathematics is an extraordinarily powerful tool that has accompanied humanity for thousands of years,” insists Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO.

“From the fossil bone of Ishango, which attests to the practice of mathematics in Paleolithic Africa more than 20,000 years ago, to the applications of today’s quantum computer, the history of mathematics is the history of our ambitions – the history of the problems we want to solve. In short, it is the story of our relationship with the world.”

The launch takes place as part of the 2022 International Mathematics Day celebrations, with the theme “Mathematics Unites” and is part of the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development 2022 (IYBSSD2022).

“The International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development 2022 is a call for action to promote the links and tools between curiosity driven sciences and sustainable development. Mathematics show the way”, says Michel Spiro, chair of the Steering Committee of IYBSSD2022.

This toolkit was produced by a consortium of experts led by the International Council for Science (composed of AIMS, AMU and CIMPA, among others). It is managed by the Centre de recherches mathématiques (CRM) in Canada.

Many examples of maths’ importance

And to convince ourselves that mathematics is essential to the achievement of the MDGs, here are some examples taken from the report.

How to draw poverty maps when census data is lacking? AI can be used to exploit non-standard databases, such as satellite images and anonymous phone call data. For example, satellite images of daylight could reveal daylight infrastructure while the absence of nightlight is a signature of poverty.

To measure the income gap for example between men and women in different countries, indices defined by mathematical formulas are used. The current problem is that these indices do indeed reflect gaps but do not take into account the level of development of different countries.

In another, more recent and still relevant example, mathematics plays a central role in the efforts of countries to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and decide on strategies to control it.
In the field of weather forecasting or in the study of global warming, mathematics is again at the heart of these sciences.

Forecasts are based on increasingly powerful algorithms. Thanks to these mathematical models, it is now possible to predict the trajectory of a cyclone, for example, a week in advance, or to attribute a heat wave in a particular place in the world to global warming with 90% certainty.

Why mathematics is indispensable

All these examples show that mathematics is indispensable for understanding and solving the problems we face.

“I am convinced that this toolbox will satisfy the curiosity not only of decision-makers but also of all those who are looking for answers to difficult questions,” concludes Audrey Azoulay.

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