Somerville’s Fellow in Applied Mathematics, Mason Porter, has developed a booklet about networks literacy that is now freely available online.

Mason, who is also Professor of Nonlinear and Complex Systems in the University of Oxford’s Mathematical Institute, was part of a team of over 30 network-science researchers, educators, teachers, and students who have written the booklet on networks literacy. It is driven by one key question: what should every person living in the 21st century know about networks by the time they finish secondary education? The sooner future scientists know these core ideas, the sooner they can make networks around us more efficient, cost-effective, and safe.

networks


 

A figure from Dr. Porter’s paper titled: Think locally, act locally: Detection of small, medium-sized, and large communities in large networks


 

The booklet, called ‘Network Literacy: Essential Concepts and Core Ideas’, breaks down seven key concepts that characterise networks so that teachers can use it in the classroom or for lesson planning. Porter, and co-authors Hiroki Sayama, Catherine Cramer, Lori Sheetz and Stephen Uzzo ordered these concepts roughly according to difficulty level.

“The concept of networks is truly interdisciplinary and knowing about general properties of networks allows students to see common patterns across disciplines, and thereby transcend disciplinary boundaries,” says Hiroki Sayama, Director of the Centre for Collective Dynamics of Complex Systems and Associate Professor of Systems Science and Industrial Engineering at Binghamton University. “It would be wonderful to see students studying various subjects —languages, history, social phenomena, biological organisms, engineered products, the Internet —all from a common lens of networks.”


 

In August 2013, Mason Porter’s outreach activities on Network Mathematics were the subject of a University of Oxford impact video.


 

The project was done in collaboration with the New York Hall of Science and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The booklet has been translated into eight different languages so far, including Persian, Japanese, and German. The booklet (including all translations) is freely available online. In addition, a paper with Sayama as the lead author called, ‘What Are Essential Concepts About Networks?’, about the procedure of creating the booklet appeared on 11 November as an advance-access article in the Journal of Complex Networks.

 

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