Math …


As I look back on my experiences with math, I cringe. I fall within the percentage of people that hate math. However, perhaps hate is the wrong word. Perhaps saying that I am intimidated and afraid of math is much more accurate. My brain gets fuzzy, my palms sweat, and my nerves are through the roof. As a student who doesn’t ever want to feel not smart or be made to look not smart, I avoided math at all costs. The aspects of math that I found to be oppressive and discriminating were that I felt I was not a “math person”, and so I felt lost and out of place during math lessons. I believe this idea of a “math person” came from how I was treated any time math came up in the class room. I do recall teachers saying “some people just aren’t good at math” or the classic “Some people are good at Art and English and some are good at Math and Science.” hence the term “math people”. In short I believe that as a student I had limited myself. Even worse, teachers limited me. Math is something students may be more naturally inclined to while other students may have to practice more at it. Either way each student can find success in math. I guess we need to make sure we aren’t instilling the ideology that if a student is not “getting it” right away then they aren’t likely to find success in that subject area. Instead, we need to instill the ideology that thing take practice, we need to practice to become “good” at something. I know that as a student I felt because I was not “good” at math I was not going to find a lot of success in post secondary. In fact, I thought post secondary was not an option for me. If I struggled in math I must not be

I would guess that math seems to be discriminatory because it is seen as a “right or wrong” subject, math isn’t generally seen as a grey area. Basically, math is not diverse if anything math is seen as universal. I think many can remember Cady Heron’s answer (watch clip here ) to Janice and Damian on Mean Girls (2004) … math is her favourite subject because it is the same in every country. But is it? I suppose math is technically universal, but the cultural backgrounds, different perspective are not things that we can just ignore. After attending lecture and reading the assigned readings for ECS 210 I have come to look at math in a different way. Not only am I trying to get away from the idea of “math people” and “art people”, I also want to address the fact that math can be different for students based on their personal perspectives. For example, a student coming from a language other than English they may even have different word s for different types of numbers. Different places in the world may have different purposes for math, so the ways in which students learn and what students learn will and should be different.

article: Leroy Little Bear Jagged Worldviews Colliding


After reading Poirier’s article I found myself now aware that math is definitely not a universal language. The examples of Inuit math given were very informative for me. When I had begun to read Poirier’s article I was excited to learn concrete examples that proved that math is not universal. I say prove, because I do come from a Eurocentric background and my perspective of math has been of the Eurocentric ideas ideologies of math. In this article the three concepts of Inuit Math that challenged Eurocentric ideas about how we should learn and use math are the following:


  • The way I learned math and the way many students learn math is with a base- 10 numerical system, in Poirier’s article he explains that “theirs is a base-20 numeral system.”. (54).



  • As far back as I can remember I have always been told that math is something I will use in everyday life. I wasn’t brainwashed into this idea (or maybe I was), but I actually believe it. I often think of math as necessary, because I need to use it everyday life. With that being said, I never took advanced Calculus and I am doing just fine in my adult life. I found it quite Interesting that the way I was taught math, and the way I view the subject as a whole is not the same in Inuit Math. “It seems that, for these students, two separate and distinct universes cohabit: the world of day-to-day life and the ‘southern’ mathematical world. Furthermore, their everyday world has nothing to do with the mathematical world Teaching Mathematics and the Inuit Community studied in school. They do not perceive mathematics as something that can help them solve everyday problems.” (54-55). This definitely challenges my Eurocentric background in math.


  • In Inuit Math, their culture is not lost in the ways they teach math, which makes sense because culture can’t really be separate from the learners, and therefore not separate from the subject.“Traditional Inuit teaching is based on observing an elder or listening to enigmas. These enigmas can be clues for problem solving in mathematics. Furthermore, Inuit teachers tell me that, traditionally, they do not ask a student a question for which they think that student does not have the answer.” This way of teaching is not necessarily present in they ways I have been taught math, I don’t think it has been present in the way I have taught math either. “In the Inuit language, Inuktitut, there are the singular (for example, Inuk means one person), the dual (Inuk means two persons), and the plural (Inuit means many people). Traditionally, it was for three and up that they needed words to express quantities.” (57) Using language as part of math challenges in Eurocentric way of teaching math, in the way that math is made into something talked about not strictly something taught and practiced with pencil and paper.


Louise Poirier (2007) Teaching mathematics and the Inuit community, Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, 7:1, 53-67, DOI: 10.1080/14926150709556720


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