Curriculum as Numeracy
At the beginning of the reading, Leroy Little Bear (2000) states that colonialism “tries to maintain a singular social order by means of force and law, suppressing the diversity of human worldviews. … Typically, this proposition creates oppression and discrimination” (p. 77). 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?
Thinking back to my K-12 math classes, I realized that overall my math experience was positive for me. My memories of math are very vague from elementary and middle school, however I really enjoyed math in grade 10-12. I think the main reason is that I had a really good math teacher and I understood the topics quite well. However, some of my classmates struggled in these classes because if you did not get along with this teacher, you would face challenges. Personally, I had really good relationship with him and got help when I needed it. However, if you did not try or was not on his good side, he did create a sense of discrimination and would not help those students.
My one negative experience with math was pre-calculus 30 because I had a different high school math teacher for this class than my others and he taught differently which I could not grasp. He is a very intelligent person, however he struggles with teaching the information. I feel like he made everything more complex and confusing and was very textbook based. Many people struggled in his class because he did create a singular social order and he only had one way of explaining and it was very “black and white”, which means you either got it, or you don’t. I remember later in the semester as I was working on an assignment, I had this realization that I finally understood what we were working on.
Overall, I had a drive for math and I always strived to get high 90s. Math did not come super easy for me and I still had to work and try for the marks I got to understand the topics.
Using Gale’s lecture and Poirier’s article, identify at least three ways in which Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric ideas about the purpose of mathematics and the way we learn it.
- Social Dimension – “Mathematics is a dialogue between people who have math’s problems to solve” (Poirier 56). In the Inuit community, there is a social aspect of mathematical knowledge that plays an important role in the learning, that may be lots of Eurocentric people take for granted. I have heard so many people say “when am I ever going to use this in real life?” For example, they have a sense of space which helps them in the real world when they are hunting and they have developed a “sense of space to help orient themselves” (Poirier 59).
- Measuring – “The first measuring tools were parts of the body…and still today, Inuit women use certain parts of their bodies to measure length” (Poirier 60). In Inuit mathematics they use their body as a measuring resource, instead of rulers or tape measures. Sense of self and space is important and this should be incorporated into Eurocentric ways in mathematics.
- Another element of Inuit mathematics is their calendar. In the article, it explains “how long one month is depends on how long it takes for a natural event to take place” (Poirier 62). Their calendar is based on natural events, while the Eurocentric calendar has 12 months with a specific number of days. Like the Inuit calendar, there is events that do happen at certain times, however every year is different. For example, I remember it snowing in May once, yet it was spring time. Instead of having 30 days in September, they say “when the caribou’s antler lose their velvet” (Poirer 60) and that is the number of days.
These Inuit mathematics ways challenge Eurocentric ideas and something we can introduce to our students as we look at diversity and different perspectives. Math is understanding the world around us!