Perspectives on Mathematics

  1. At the beginning of the reading, Leroy Little Bear (2000) states that colonialism “tries to maintain a singular social order by means of force and law, suppressing the diversity of human worldviews…Typically, this proposition creates oppression and discrimination” (p. 77). 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?

I definitely think there were aspects of math that were oppressive. Looking back at my high school days in math class, there would be 1-3 different methods in solving one problem. In most cases, we got to choose the method that best suit our learning abilities. The next, we get a different teacher and they show us one way of solving. Someone questions using a different method and the teacher says no. To only use the method that was being taught. Now, I have learned from an early age that everyone has their own ways of learning, so why do teachers sometimes restrict that? In fact, I don’t really know the answer. It was definitely oppressive to those who did not understand this new concept, when they can figure it out another way that suits their needs. With certain equations, there may only be one way to answer, but when given a choice or when we know there are alternatives to answering a question, students should be given that opportunity. It is the teachers job to recognize their needs and do everything they can to help them achieve. If a student wants a challenge, or if the teacher thinks they should try, there is nothing wrong with challenging them for their benefits. 

  • After reading Poirier’s articles: 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. 

Base 20 system: As mentioned in the article, “the numbers 20 and 400 are pivotal numbers, as other numbers are built from these two numbers” (p. 57). Imagine integrating this into our own math curriculum, confusing, right? It challenges the way we see math compared to other countries. Like how Inuit children learn to count in their language, until grade 3. The way they see math, makes sense in their world context, compared to European views, it’s about adding, subtracting, formulas and more. 

Measuring: Their way of measuring is pretty cool. Instead of using rulers and tape measures, they use parts of their body. I think this ties in with commonsensical ideas of how to measure things. Since, the European way is, unfortunately, dominant, we use what they see as the normal. 

Traditional Calendar: The Inuit’s traditional calendar is neither lunar or solar. Instead, it is based on “natural, independently reoccurring yearly events” (p. 61). Each name of the month comes from animal activity or from nature, for example:

Coldest of all months = January
When birds lay their eggs = June
When male caribou fight for a female = October
The length of the month depends on how long it takes for the natural event to occur. 

Reading the "Real World"

  • How has your upbringing/ schooling shaped how you “read the world?” What biases and lenses do you bring to the classroom? How might we unlearn/ work against these biases?

I grew up in a lower-class neighborhood and attended a community school. I thought our school was rich because we had hot lunches and food for the students that didn’t have anything. We were given snacks and lunches and I thought that was normal. But then I moved to the south side of the city in a middle-class area. All I could think of is the kinds of snacks and meals they have compared to my old school, but they didn’t have that. I only understood when I graduated and reflected back on my experiences in elementary school and wondering why a middle-class school didn’t have the “luxuries” of a lower-class school. That time in my life gave me insight to the real world and I didn’t even know. So, I guess I didn’t really have any biases or lenses growing up. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have any biases now, I do for sure and I didn’t realize I had any until high school. I am not proud of the biases I have formed, but I think it is a learning experience for everyone and to work towards diminishing these biases from an early start. 

  • Which “single stories” were present in your own schooling? Whose truth mattered?

I only remember stories about European and privileged families. I never, and still have not read a book that I can relate to. A middle-class Filipino girl whose family came from a third world country or anything about a Filipino girl in fact. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough, but that’s beside the point. What I want to talk about is the real-world problem of the Canadian history many of us have learned about. The history of Residential Schools. This single story was only present in my high school years and thankfully has continued to my university years. Single stories are dangerous, we see the dominant side only or what society “believes” is important. With all two-sided stories, both truths matter. Depending on your values and beliefs you may disagree or agree with one or the other.