“Bulletin Board”

 School of Mathematics - December 1, 2000

WMY 2000 in Iran

A National Commission for the World Mathematical Year 2000 was officially established in Iran in 1997, headed by the Minister of Culture and Higher Eduation.

 
  In early 1997 a National Commission for the World Mathematical Year 2000 was officially established in Iran. The Commission, headed by the Minister of Culture and Higher Education (MCHE), includes several other cabinet ministers, various dignitaries and a number of mathematical scientists. To underscore the importance the country attaches to the event, President Mohammad Khatami of I.R. has agreed to be named the Honorary Chairman of the Commission. The day-to-day operation of the Commission is carried out by an Executive Committee composed mostly of the mathematical scientists on the Commission and is headed by the Deputy Minister for Research of MCHE. The Executive Committee has set up a number activities in such areas as popularizing mathematics, the role of mathematics in development, mathematics education and research in the coming century, publications and the documentation of the history of mathematics in the country.

There was considerable debate from the beginning on whether the Executive Committee should take on an active role of top-to-bottom leadership or adopt a supportive role in assisting grass-roots initiatives formulated by relevant institutes, professional societies and other groups. In order to encourage broad involvement with WMY events, it was decided that a general call should go out to all concerned to define projects and proposals that fit certain broad criteria. The subcommittees then pursue the goal of coordination, guidance and the funding of acceptable incoming initiatives. However, the Executive Committee will be closely watchful to provide balance and, where necessary, inject the necessary leadership to ensure that all the major projected areas of activity receive proper over-all emphasis. Among the plans under way to bring mathematics to the public are the establishment of Mathematics Clubs, expansion of mathematical exhibitions in science parks and museums, publication of popular books on mathematics, mathematics and computer-science contests for various age groups, and the airing of a several series of radio and television programs that emphasize the relevance of mathematics and its role as the cornerstone of modern science and echnology.

The celebration of WMY 2000 provides a very opportune focus for mathematics related activities in Iran which have experienced remarkable growth in the last dozen years. Despite the existence of a a well-entrenched historical tradition in mathematics, modern mathematics was implanted in the country only in the late 1930's and its development was slow and uneven for most of the half-century following its introduction. Although the school system in Iran has generally performed a creditable job in preparing students mathematically for higher education, Iran has shared with other developing countries the difficulty of attracting top-notch talent to the fields of basic sciences in general and to mathematics in particular. There has been a significant reversal of this trend in the last decade fueled in part by well-publicized inception of national olympiads in mathematics and sciences and subsequent very successful participation of Iranian national teams in various international student olympiads. Iran's entry into the International Mathematics Olympiad has finished in the top ten in six of the last seven years. Significantly, most of the alumni of these mathematics olympiads are choosing mathematics as their field of study at the university level. Another important development has been the belated introduction of doctorate programs in mathematical sciences. This has served to institutionalize mathematics research and has contributed greatly to the development of home-grown talent. WMY 2000 furnishes a timely framework in which to review and assess these and other developments and to provide a perspective and a blue-print for the future in a way that would meet the challenges of the new century.

All communication regarding WMY 2000 activities in Iran should be addressed to: \\ WMY 2000/ Offices of Deputy Minister for Research, MCHE, P.O.Box 13145-554/ Tehran. Iran.

Contact: S. Shahshahani, shahshahani@ipm.ac.ir
 
 
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