- 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?
- 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.
To some extent, Western science and mathematics reflect a Eurocentric value system that is “linear and singular, static and objective” (p. 82). Canadian mathematics education poses questions, and it is the students job to logically and linearly work through the problem to reach an answer (a product). By attaining an expected product, the process loses its meaning. For Indigenous cultures, their worldview and systems thinking revolves around interconnected webs and continuous cycles. As such, linear thinking is discouraged, and the process of the cycles is more important than the products along it. In this way, Indigenous students and those who subscribe to their ways of thinking may be alienated in SK mathematics courses. So too are those who do not reach the correct answer, representing “proper behaviour”. Those who diverge, and behave “poorly” by getting wrong answers, are told that they are doing things unacceptably in Western worldviews. The learning process is not reflected, as only the process is taken into consideration. The combining of these two conflicting worldviews leads to jagged worldviews, especially amongst Indigenous students, which are not conducive to their learning experiences or even life experiences in some cases.
One way that Inuit mathematics contrasts with Eurocentric mathematics is that in certain regions, math is taught in the Inuktitut language up until grade 3. It is taught in English or French following this.
Secondly, Inuit mathematics and traditional ways of knowledge have been noted to lend to increased spatial relation and representation skills in math, compared to those children in non-Indigenous schools. Through observation these concepts are more readily attainable, rather through abstract discourse in a regular Western mathematics classroom.
Lastly, the teaching methods used by teachers are different. Whereas Western education often relies on paper and pen exercises, natural ways of Inuit education rely on the listening to or observation of an Elder or other older community member. One aspect of this is that Inuit teachers do not ask questions they do not believe they have an answer to.
Further challenges to Western education include: using limbs to measure things rather than a ruler, identifying ‘months’ through events rather than a calendar,