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?
2) Identify at least three ways in which Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric ideas about the purposes mathematics and the way we learn it.
Reading response to “Jagged Worldviews Colliding” by Leroy Little Bear and “Teaching mathematics and the Inuit community” by Louise Poirer.
1) I have never thought much about my mathematical education. Math always felt like something I had to do. I was good at it when I was very young. As time passed I decided that, of all school subjects, math was my least favourite. I didn’t enjoy doing it (and I enjoyed everything else). I’ve never been able to expend much energy on things I don’t enjoy. But I persisted because I wanted to achieve high grades in all subjects – and continued to do well. In high school my math grades dropped steadily semester after semester. In the end, they were still pretty good. But they were my lowest grades. I didn’t bother studying physics or calculus.
I was a lucky kid. I was raised by parents who valued education. My mom was a kindergarten teacher. I didn’t spent much time on math at home but whenever something mathematical arose at home, or whenever math homework was sent home, I received support and encouragement; my parents expected me to do well.
Students can get left behind in math classes. That risk is higher in math, perhaps, than it is in any other subject. Mathematical knowledge is built on an ever-growing base of knowledge and skills. For students who didn’t enjoy the support at home that I did, and who weren’t able to keep up in class, mathematical prowess could have quickly seemed unreachable at a very young age (even though those kids would have received the same instruction I did).
2) The Inuit’s mathematics have grown out of their experience in their traditional territories. Their mathematical conceptions are rooted in meeting their needs and wants in a unique landscape and a harsh climate. For example, their months do not have strict numbers of days – they are approximations that coincide with natural, annual occurrences – events that are important to track for continued survival. The Inuit developed math and related abilities (like spatial awareness and navigational techniques) that help them in their environment. Mathematicians, scientists, math teachers, accountants, statisticians, computer programmers etc. may argue that we (in the south) learn math for similar purposes – to help us navigate our particular environment: the modern, globalized world. I read the article and don’t really think Inuit mathematics challenges Eurocentric ideas about the purposes of math. We each possess a unique mathematics that help us function in our respective environments. I look forward to attending class and possibly changing my mind.