Curriculum as Numeracy

Prompt 1: 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?

Prompt 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.

One of the main memories I have in math class is during my grade 8 year. My class was divided into two math groups, one taught by the high school math teacher and one half taught by the grade 8 homeroom teacher. I was in my homeroom math teacher’s class. The reason this math class sticks out to me was because I had a lot of issues with it. I remember when I was in elementary school, I had issues with math in general and lots of the concepts confused me so I was always encouraged to ask for help because I would get too frustrated trying to do it on my own. However, I was told differently in grade 8. I would ask the teacher and TA for help on questions and I would always ask for clarification on questions. My math teacher thought I did this to waste time and he got frustrated with how many questions I asked. He ended up throwing a large calculator at me, along with various whiteboard markers, and told me I had a limit of 3 questions every math period to ask. I hated this. I couldn’t ask for help so I routinely fell behind in class and had homework and I felt as though asking questions were bad. To this day I still struggle to ask questions and ask for help because I think back to this memory. The rule my teacher instilled was oppressive because it limited me and only me, no other person in my class was affected by this rule.

            The Inuit use a base of 20 and sub-base 5 system instead of base 10 like the Eurocentric way. This can be troublesome when trying to do math work in a Eurocentric way since the bases are different. Bases can be converted but to do so can be challenging, especially for younger minds. The Inuit also use their body parts to measure instead of Eurocentric units. I found this interesting since I know a few tips and tricks when it comes to measurements and clothing. For example, the distance from your wrist to the crease of your elbow is the size of your foot and if you button a pear of jeans and wrap them around your neck, they should fit your waist. The Inuit use language to teach their mathematics as well. Since they are a very oral language, math gets taught the same way most things do in their culture. They also bring in an elder for students to listen to and observe.

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