• Ricardo Nemirovsky

Wrapping it up | 11 October 2022

Last March I went to study the Mary Harris archive at Goldsmith College in London. The materials of this archive are crucial to understanding the struggles of mathematics education in the UK at the turn of the century.

Unfortunately, my meeting I planned with Mary Harris in coordination with my visit to the archive had to be cancelled, but we stayed in touch via emails and phone calls. She asked me whether I would be willing to keep some extra materials that she thought should to be given to someone who would appreciate their significance. A week later I received a large envelop that she had mailed to my house. It included a copy of an article entitled “Wrapping it up” that Harris had published in Mathematics Teaching (issue 123, December 1985) and several cardboard materials.

In the article Harris questions the “narrow view of mathematics” compelling people to judge that mathematics in the workplace is reducible to arithmetic calculations. Such a view of mathematics prevents us from noticing that, with a broader perspective, inclusive of geometry and other areas of mathematics, we would recognize mathematics as pervading the workplace. The cardboard materials in my package were designed to make different kinds of boxes. Harris collected them from a variety of commercial and industrial sources, which used them to transport and protect a range of items -- from bottles of wine to Turkish delight sweets. As part of the project “Maths in Work”, Harris used them as centerpieces of a curricular unit called “Wrapping it up”. If you are interested in playing with the cardboard boxes and reading the article, email me (

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