Teaching and Learning Mathematics

Part 1 –  Think back on your experiences of the teaching and learning of mathematics — were there aspects of it that were oppressive and/or discriminating for you or other students?

Looking back on the math courses I have taken in elementary/high school, I can now see that they focused more on the product rather than the process. I was always told to show my work when writing my answers, but the emphasis was put on the answer. I remember times when myself or other classmates were called out to answer a question, and if we gave a wrong answer, the feeling resulted in embarrassment or negative feelings. This can relate to Leroy Little Bear’s (2000) article about Western value systems “being linear and singular, static, and objective” (p.82). In school, specifically math, we were always taught in a certain way. It never focused on the student’s interest or math would always be considered the worst subject in school. I never really knew anyone who liked math. When you relate it to Aboriginal peoples values, they focused a lot on “praise, reward, recognition, and renewal ceremonies and by example, actual experience, and storytelling” (2000, p.81). In math, the only focus was getting the right answer and moving on. We learned formulas and numbers and didn’t relate them to any real-life experiences. Students often wonder “when am I even going to use this information?”. I can see how this subject can be oppressive or discriminatory because the people who are good at math are the ones who get the most praise and recognition, but the ones who are struggling get left behind and do not feel good enough.

Part 2 – After reading Poirier’s article: Teaching mathematics and the Inuit Community, identify at least three ways in which Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric ideas about the purposes mathematics and the way we learn it.

Counting – At first, Inuit people often learn how to count in their own language in the first few years of their life. They also focus on counting using oral numeration which can be challenging for Eurocentric ideas because in math we usually write and use numbers on paper.

Measuring – When it comes to measuring things such as time, Inuit people’s traditional calendar is neither lunar nor solar. They do not follow numbered days in a month, rather they are “based on natural, independently recurring yearly events” (Poirier, 2007, p.61).

Localization – Inuit people do their math that relates to real-life experiences. That can be things such as traveling and having to read the land and weather. Math taught the Eurocentric way often focuses on a formula and finding an answer.

References

Bear, L. L. (2000). Jagged worldviews colliding. In M. Batiste (Ed.), Reclaiming Indigenous voice and vision (pp. 77-85). UBC Press.

Poirier, L. (2007). Teaching mathematics and the Inuit community, Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, 7(1), p. 53-67.

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