Mathematics

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

Looking back at my elementary math experiences I don’t recall much, but my high school math experiences were very process and product based. We didn’t get all of the marks if we didn’t show our work and just put down the answer, the teacher liked to know what our thinking was and where we would go wrong if we didn’t get the right answer. Math was taught with one or two ways to go about getting the right answer, and we were only marked correct if we did it those two ways that the teacher showed us. With the math curriculum changing, our parents couldn’t really help either because they were taught a completely different way. From the article, the Eurocentric Values were, “linear and singular, static, and objective” (Bear pg. 82). However, the Aboriginal People’s values are that, “education and socialization are achieved through praise, reward, recognition, and renewal ceremonies” (Bear pg. 81). In my own high school experience, I was always stressed about making sure that I paid attention in class and tried to follow what was going on, because the teacher often called on you and asked for the correct answer or the next step, and it was embarrassing when you didn’t get the right answer. However, thinking about if from a teacher’s point of view, maybe the teacher was just trying to evaluate their own teaching and was making sure that everything was making sense and that everyone was following, but from a student’s perspective, it was very stressful because nobody likes to feel “humiliation” in front of their peers.

Identify at least three ways in which Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric ideas about the purposes mathematics and the way we learn it.

Counting – the systematic use of methods to compare and order sets of objects. Inuit children learn to count in their own language. They are taught oral numeration, which challenges the Eurocentric ideas because in math we are usually taught to write or use numbers written down on paper.

Measuring – the use of objects or measuring tools to quantify dimensions. Examples: women use their palm when making parkas, or they measure September as to when the caribou’s antlers lose their velvet. Whereas, Eurocentric ideas would be to just use a regular monthly calendar or measuring tape.

Localization – the exploration of one’s spatial environment and the symbolization of that environment with the help of models, diagrams, drawings, words, or other means. Inuit people use math to relate to real-life experiences. Example: Reading the land and weather when deciding if travel is safe. Whereas math taught the Eurocentric way is often a formula and a correct answer.

2 thoughts on “Mathematics

  1. Great blog post Kaitlyn. I find myself agreeing with your story regarding math experiences. I had a teacher that understood math was a struggle for some students in the class. He also understood that our parents education and the curriculum back then was much different compared to today. However, if he felt that the students were having a hard time with the concept he was trying to teach, with his age and knowledge, he would revert back to the old system. He wasn’t to concerned when it came finding the right answer. Of course that means you got the right answer. But if you showed that you understood the content and the process and had one wrong math error that impacted the question, he wouldn’t completely mark the whole question wrong. He gave partial marks that would assist in the grade we would receive. It is funny how difficult math is for some but yet so easy for others. I think in the perspective of the teacher, they have the hardest job when it comes to teaching the content and making sure everybody as a collective group understands what is going on.

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  2. gillian surkan says:

    I agree that math can be one-sided and that there are only certain ways that math subjects are taught. They focus so much on the formulas and getting the right answer, that they do not focus as much on how they got the right answer. In my experience, I would get partial marks depending on the work I showed, but sometimes not as many marks because I did not use the formula the teacher wanted, even though I got the right answer. I also agree that it is not fair when teachers call out on students to answer questions, because sometimes the student may not know the answer and give the wrong one, feeling embarrassed. Now they have constant anxiety in the class because they are scared the teacher will call on them. I think teachers believe it will make the students pay more attention in class, but in reality, they are now focused and stressed about getting called on by the teacher.

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