Math is more than just numbers.

Math has never been my best subject.  I took several math classes in high school and did fairly well.  I have taught one math lesson in my placement last semester.  This lesson was a math 8 lesson on the volume of a rectangle and how to calculate that.   The lesson was very daunting to teach.  It went ok and I know I will have a lot of work to do if I ever have to teach math again.

I have learned that math is more than just numbers.  There are different ways to teach math and those different ways have their own bias’ and unintended consequences.   As Leroy Little Bear points out Indigenous ways of mathematics are very different from that of European methods.  One difference that stuck out the most to me was that Indigenous education involved learning through experience.  this also includes the philosophy, values, and customs of the material.  I find that a lot of my education and what I have had to teach students is very number and theoretical based.   This focus is very Eurocentric and does not incorporate other ways of learning and understanding math.   I also find that the questions often asked of students are a very “nice white lady” and the story is only a way to compliment the numbers and no emphasis is placed on the story itself.

After reading Poirier’s article Teaching mathematics and the Inuit community, three challenges for the Eurocentric view is evident.  The first being that the Inuit have a base 20 system, which is very different than the base 10 system that widely recognized.  Furthermore, the Inuit do not see math as helping them in everyday problems.  The Eurocentric view can be seen as ‘acculturation” which is the process of integrating students into that of another culture.  Also, the traditional Inuit method of learning is not writing numbers and words down on a page but rather learning and observing from their elders and knowledge keepers.

Another interesting aspect of Inuit culture is that the months are only as long as it takes for a natural event to take place. the name of the months come from an animal activity in nature.

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