ECS 210

Week 9. Challenging Eurocentric Mathematical Ideas

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?

My learning experience in the mathematics field was extremely linear. From as early as grade 3 I remember being told to begin with chapter 1 in the textbook and continue on until the end of the year, when we would reach the end of the book. Our current mathematic classrooms tend to rely directly on the textbook. This results in a type of learning where you must know one concept perfectly, before you are qualified to move onto the next concept. This linear path of learning disrupts students from authentically making connections between concepts. I believe that this type of learning can be oppressive for many students regardless of age, gender and race. If a student is lacking in confidence in one mathematical concept, the fast linear pace of a modern mathematics classroom will prohibit this student from excelling in math.

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.

1. Eurocentric ways of learning suggests that we should teach all citizens who live in Canada in the English or French language. In Poirier’s article they disrupt this way of knowing in 2005, when they began teaching the Inuit Community mathematics in their first language Inukitut.

2. Inuit Communities do not believe in using paper and pencils to acquire their knowledge. In their culture they learn best by “observing an elder or listening to enigmas”. (p. 55) In my own educational experience, I was taught that if I wrote something down 5 times in a row I would be able to memorize the content. The Inuit Community is challenging this point of view by saying that there are more natural ways in which a student can understand and memorize content.

3. The Inuit have a base-20 numeral system. Until university I was unaware that the base-10 numeral system was not the only one. I believe that by using other numeral systems challenges the Eurocentric ideas by informing students that there are endless possibilities when it comes to mathematics. This way of knowing promotes the ideology that there is never one right answer

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