Math scares me!

Growing up, I was not a strong student in math. In Elementary school, I remember getting so nervous before “mad minutes” and it was not necessarily because of the addition or subtraction, but we had to put the “time” down when we finished. My parents only had one clock in our house and it was in roman numerals and the rest of the clocks were digital. I still get anxiety as an adult to have to tell someone the time from an analog clock and ill admit it does take me longer than most to figure it out (face palm), but we do not need to tell time that way with all the technology around us. Another fear is dealing with money. Counting back change used to give me extreme anxiety. If I was ever asked to work the door or concession at a hockey game/high school event that was my biggest fear that I would not give back the correct amount of money.

I can say that I do not remember my math learning experiences from elementary school, but I do remember in grade 7-9 we did A LOT of math questions up at the chalkboard where other students could see our mistakes while working through problems. I felt like in math you should be able to just “know it.” It should be easy… Did you not memorize your times tables? Well if 5X6=30, how come it takes you so long to figure out how many groups of 6 go into 30? I also felt that if you did understand it you could fly through the assignments and were praised, but if it took you longer or if you did not finish your homework (my parents couldn’t help me with math problems at home) you were a student that got left behind. How Math was taught to me was usually a written lesson on what definitions meant, example questions (not many maybe 1 or 2 of each type of questions), than we would be given numbers from the Math Makes Sense textbook and told to get to work. In math, you worked alone for most of it. I also felt like the subject was taught quickly. That might have been because I would finally start to understand a concept and we would be moving on to the next concept.

In my grade 10 and 11 math class, I had THE BEST math teacher. He cared and made an effort to get us engaged and wanting to learn. I remember our whole class marching down the hallways chanting a math song we created in class to learn a new formula with him leading the way. He also volunteered a lot of his time to do math with students that needed extra help (like me) in the mornings, during lunch hour, or after school. He has actually helped me in my university math classes too, I reached out for help and he would send me a video of how he got to his answer and explained each step. I am thankful for teachers like him.

Reading the article “Teaching Mathematics and the Inuit Community” by Louise Poirier we learn how using other cultures view points can be beneficial to learning math in other ways than Eurocentric ways of learning. The article talks about students that were not doing well at Eurocentric math, but when they were taught a new strategy game those students that were spending more time learning from their traditional cultural or from their grandparents were able to learn spatial relations quicker and easier than the western taught children. We also learned that the Inuit children used a base 20 system for their first 3 years of learning math. Base 20 works for their culture and society because they do a lot of their teaching orally. It works well because in their number system can be the same meaning for the same number unless it is spoken differently. We also learned in our lecture on Tuesday that they use the base 20 system because they use their hands and feet for counting and grouping numbers. I also like how the Inuit teach the months of the years. They go by what naturally occurs over the months and not by a set of 30 or 31 days. I actually like this way of using a calendar because not all years are the same with weather changes, hunting availability and so on. The Inuit use the land to survive so if they went by a strict 30/31 day monthly calendar it would not fit their life style. It just goes to show that not all MATH is the same which I have always considered it to be a universal subject. I thought this because of how I was taught, I am happy to see other forms of math and hoping I can incorporate different varieties of teaching math in my classroom so my students do not fear math like I did.

Email Response

Good morning,

I just want to first off thank you for bringing awareness to a place that needs to be more educated by the sounds of your concerns. Teaching Treaty Education is apart of our jobs being teachers and you are doing a great job bringing awareness to your classroom.

Let us start by problem solving why your class was confused about the topic and why they were making racist remarks or joking about the topic. I believe it is because of how undereducated they have been about Treaty Education. You are bringing awareness to a “foreign” subject that might make some of the students, teachers, and community members feel uncomfortable. Treaty Education has not been taught at the school you are in because it is a predominately-white school; you are going to have to start at the basics. A good place to start looking to help you educate your students is in the Treaty Education Outcomes and Indicators my suggestions is to start at the grade three curriculum. (You might even need to go earlier than this is you are still not able to express your teachings to the students or staff.) The Grade Three curriculum focus is on Exploring Challenges and Opportunities in Treaty Making. Your students do not have an understanding on how the land is important and how the land means something different to Indigenous people compared to settlers of the land. It is a good place to show the view points of each group.

You have also stated that the teachers are “very lax” when it comes to the subject and that, they do not see the purpose of teaching it. In Dwayne Donald’s Video “What Terms do we Speak?” he says “teachers are meant to teach aboriginal perspectives, but really we don’t know anything about it!” This is where you can come into play in your school. If you have ideas and are confident to share them with the staff. Start! We are all Treaty people, is a good place to get your fellow colleagues on board with becoming more educated and wanting to learn about Treaty Education. It is not something we can ignore as teachers; it needs to be showing up in all our classroom subjects and daily. In the video presentation by Claire she says when we are teaching about Treaty Education we are NOT focussing on the Indigenous students in our classrooms (they already know about their histories) we are focusing on the non-indigenous students and building their knowledge and understandings. Claire has a blog ill add the link here it is a great resource to help you further your own education, but also tell your other teachers that it is a great place to discover and learn about Treaty Education.

I hope that these suggestions can help you and will further your learning.

My Future Classrooms Sense of Place and Atmosphere!

Thinking about how I want my future classroom to be culturally relevant reminds me of some of the teachers I had growing up. I do feel fortunate for the teachers I had and some of them being of Indigenous decent. I remember in my grade three class learning how to make pemmican and listening to stories about my teacher’s culture. I think about how I can incorporate other cultures into my classroom and how to explain the importance of other cultures to younger students. Literacy is a good area to incorporate different cultures. Reading to younger students books like Henrys Freedom Box, Rough Faced Girl, The Colors of Us, Same Same but Different and Hair Like Mine are all great books to bring awareness of other cultures and identities to your classroom. I am all about building connections with students and making sure they know I care! I want my future classroom to feel safe, look cozy and warm and sound respectful, but questioning allowing room for growth and learning among peers. I also strongly believe in building connections with my fellow educators and peers and learning from them and getting them to help teach me. In the article “Culturally relevant pedagogy and critical literacy in diverse English classrooms: A case study of a secondary English teacher’s activism and agency” by Ann. E Lopez she comments, “it is important that teachers recognize that this work cannot be done alone and that collaboration is important.” The reason why collaboration is important to build your futures classrooms look, sound and feel is because it allows teachers to listen to others who potentially have more experience than I do. It leaves space to question how to appropriately go about culture. In my EAE class we learned about “Culture Appropriation and Culture Appreciation” in the article Moving from Cultural Appropriation to Cultural Appreciation written by Hsiao- Cheng (Sandrine) Han. She wrote it is important to be aware of how you are “speaking for others or representing them in fictional as well as legal, social, artistic, and political work [as] appropriate or proper, especially when individuals or groups with more social, economic, and political power perform this role for others without invitation” (Han p.9). I think the most important thing is to just be aware and teach culture with acknowledgement.

Sense of place and belonging is important to teach our students. Making connections to their communities and surrounding environments will help them plan for a better tomorrow and promote awareness on how they can improve the world we live in. If you are not following Garrick Schmidt on twitter you need to start. I went to high school with Garrick, and he is definitely incorporating place based learning in his teachings. I will be using him as a resource to broaden my teachings in my future classrooms. Engaging the students in their own community will help them connect to the stories or that area of their community and be proud of where they are living. Place based education I think involves the students more and they are more actively involved and participating when you can incorporate a sense of space into their learnings.