Mathematics isn’t off the hook

This subject was very intriguing to me as mathematics is my major area of study. I always thought that it was an area that didn’t really apply to the things we talk about in class such as being oppressive or discriminatory, but after reading Leroy Little Bear and Poirier’s articles, I realized that Math is far from safe.

I always excelled in Mathematics at school, and because of that, I never really thought about what it was like to be a student who struggled. That was until I entered university and education, and began to think back to my own experience in Math when I began to realize the privileges that I received over other students, even to the point where I was exempt from having to hand in certain assignments for my grades. I began to realize that some of my math classes were very focused on the individual. Aboriginal views according to Leroy Little Bear are very contrasting to my experience where they value “the importance of the group as opposed to the individual” (2000, p. 83). There are so many other ways that the “eurocentric way” of looking at mathematics is very contrasting to that of other points of view. Another example comes from the fact that Math, in many cases, is very product-based and as long as you get good marks on the tests, that means you understand. This contrasts to Aboriginal perspectives where learning is very process-based, and that it’s important to find the meaning in what you learn, not just memorize facts. It is examples like these where we begin to see where oppression and discrimination creep in.

When I look at the ways in which Inuit math challenges Eurocentric methods, comes in the form of practicality. One of the main questions that I used to hear everyone ask, and even I did myself, was “how is this useful?”. The way Inuit Mathematics goes about the teaching of Math leaves no need for that question, as everything they learn relates to practical use. From counting (p. 57) to direction/ angles (p. 58), to even the way they come to understand shapes (p.63), each lesson connects to real-life situations or experiences. I feel like this helps students really connect to what they are learning, and because of that, it creates a deeper connection to the subject, which is something that Eurocentric schools have such a hard time doing (but could learn a lot from these articles).

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