Western Mathematics

I am lucky enough to be taking an EMTH class with Gale Russel this semester and I have been learning and thinking a lot about Mathematics, and my role in Math. I do not believe that I experienced oppression in Math; however, looking back at the Math I was taught, it was very exclusive to Western worldviews. The way I was taught was that there was one way to do and interpret everything, and I was taught Math through lecture rather than experience. This does not make room for any other worldview or make room for students that do not succeed when taught by lecture.

There is a contrast between Inuit Mathematics and the Western Mathematics I was taught. 3 differences or ways the Eurocentric ideas are challenged by Inuit Mathematics are:

  1. Inuit Mathematics uses a base 20 numeral system where general Western Mathematics is typically done in base 10
  2. All cultures use some type of measurements for clothing and shelter. Measuring is done using different body parts in Inuit cultures rather than using measuring tools such as rulers like in Western Mathematics. 
  3. The Inuit people also do not focus on one set way, unlike the eurocentric mathematics. For example, their calendar changes every year based on their environment. 

Altogether I do not think one way of viewing Mathematics is superior to the next. However, the Indigenous worldview makes room for all types of Mathematics which I believe is important for an anti-oppressive Math classroom.

Treaty Education // We Are All Treaty People

Pretext: For our blog this week we were asked to think about a response to a teacher that is having difficulty implementing Treaty Education in their classroom because of resistance from their students and their colleagues lack appreciation for Treaty Education

Firstly I would remind this intern that they are doing everything right by persisting with Treaty Education especially in a school where it is a seemingly inferior topic. I would also tell them that Treaty Education is relatively new to the education system and people’s resistance is unfortunately expected. Since their colleague does not see the importance in teaching Treaty Education and will likely not be easily convinced of its value, I would suggest that they remind that colleague that it is mandatory as it is a part of the Saskatchewan curriculum; as Claire said in class “back everything you do with the curriculum.” In addition, I tell this teacher to use the resources out there to try to educate their colleagues on why Treaty Education is needed in schools and what it means to be a treaty person.

In regards to their students, this teacher’s lesson is probably one of the first and few times they have been asked to think about First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples’ worldviews. The purpose of Treaty Education in to teach people about the history of the land we get to live on. It is to inform people that because of European settlement some people have been privileged to have great success and other people to be forcefully marginalized or assimilated into a new culture. Treaty Education is about informing people that peaceful promises were made between nations so that everyone could share this land and cultures could thrive together. So it is important that this teacher’s students learn these things and maybe a lesson on privilege to introduce the topic would be beneficial. Unfortunately, it can be very hard to get through to people when they have grown up hearing and learning from others who share racist or ignorant views of the Indigenous people in Canada. Hopefully, these students will eventually come to the realization that they are treaty people. They are on this land because of promises of many things such education, agricultural assistance, money, and much more; many of these promises were not kept.

I hope that my response and these points would help the teacher to persist in her mission of teaching treaty education. I know that I will likely see the same resistance in my career but I understand the purpose of treaty education and I know that I want it to be a part of my classroom regardless of others view of treaty education.

Decolonization and Reinhabitation

Throughout the reading, reinhabitation and decolonization can be seen. Reinhabitation means to find and create ways that help people to live in their environments. In the article, reinhabitation is happening through the dialogue that is being created between the youth and Elders. The Elders are teaching the youth about the First Nation’s traditional ways of knowing and the youth are teaching the Elders about their perspectives of the world and their environment. Additionally, the 10-day trip on the Kistachowan River is the central part of this research which I also think shows reinhabitation because of the river’s connection to nature and history for the First Nation. Decolonation happens when we start to end and change the ways that have previously had a negative impact on Indigenous people. In this article, decolonization can also be seen through the Elders sharing their ways of knowing because this worldview helps to dismantle the worldview that European colonizers forced on the First Nations’ people. 

In my own classroom, I really want to teach through the lens of an Indigenous worldview, which for me might mean that I will often be challenging the worldview that I grew up to accept. I also think another thing that this article stressed was getting help from different programs in the community and I can use this idea in my own classroom. Having Elders come speak to my students and reaching out to programs that are part of reconciliation are things that I want to do in my classroom. Lastly, I think that knowing the resources that are out there is important. Groups like STARS along with all of the amazing professors I have met through the program and other classes are all people that I can reach out to if I do need help adapting these ideas in my classroom.

The “Good” Student

Earlier this semester I wrote a blog post about Kevin Kumashiro’s definition of common sense. Common sense is the assumptions we make without question or analysis; it is the lenses we look through without realizing we are looking through any lenses at all. These sensical assumptions include many things such as what curriculum should look like, which assessment methods are best, AND what this blog will talk about: the good student. Common sense tells us that a good student does not question the teacher, can learn easily, is obedient and submissive, and needs no modifications. Generally, this definition favors white students that have no exceptionalities. When I type “good student” into Google, the image results are very telling about what this definition means. 

Search results when “good student” is typed into Google

If you enlarge that image you will see that the majority of people in those photos are white, at a desk, and are with books or demonstrate obedience and compliance. This definition excludes any students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia or ADHD, any students who are not white, and any students who excel in other areas that are not reading, writing, or arithmetic. This is probably why so many artists have shared their stories about how negative school was for them; their intelligence and talents did not fit into this definition and therefore they were set up to fail. Learning about these assumptions we make has helped me to become much more critical, and now when I hear the term good student I try to imagine all kinds of students from all backgrounds and remember that it will be my job to help them succeed.

Autonomous Vs. Ideological in Curriculum

In ECS 210 we have been examining curriculums and curriculum theories in many forms, from many theorists. This week we were asked to look at curriculums in the subject area we will likely teach. Since my major is Mathematics, I chose to look specifically at Mathematics 9 from the Saskatchewan curriculum.

Screenshot from Math 9 curriculum

In this curriculum, almost all of the outcomes have an indicator about relating back to self and community. In this sense idealogical literacy is present in the curriculum, because students are asked to make connections between the Math and themselves. Additionally, under the Aims and Goals section of the grade 9 Math curriculum, Math as a Human Endeavour is listed as one of the goals. This goal very much so follows along with an ideological frame because it encourages students to use mathematics as a way of challenging and analyzing their experiences beyond the classroom and beyond basic fundamentals. However, the majority of math curriculums still follow an autonomous frame. Knowledge acquired through mathematics can be described as arbitrary rules and facts that students are expected to memorize rather than discover on their own. One thing I would like to point out however, is that although the Math curriculum can be viewed this way, a teacher can still adjust their classroom and the way they teach so that it is more idealogical than autonomous. For instance, in my EMTH 300 class we have been learning about teaching mathematics through problem solving and inquiry. When math is taught with this method students develop formulas and proofs on their own and also develop a deeper understanding.

This is why I believe that teaching techniques and methods go hand in hand with curriculum. A teacher can choose to interpret a curriculum as autonomous or idealogical depending how they want to deliver that curriculum to their students. Just because the literacy of the curriculum might seem to favour a certain frame does not mean that it can only be interpreted one way. As I am learning more about curriculum I have developed a deeper understanding of how I can interpret it to match my own philosophy. 

Is Curriculum a Public Policy?

My understanding of curriculum after this week’s readings is that curriculum is a document which specifies what students are to know and be able to do. There are general objectives in curriculum and then there are more specific outcomes for different grade levels and subjects. Although teachers, principals, and experts on subject areas are involved in the curricula process it is still more often than not a political matter in which government has complete control.

Although I knew that education was controlled by the government I had never really thought about the impact that could have on curricula. No one is completely impartial to what they would want to be taught in school, and unfortunately people are always going to have their own biases; like Kevin Kumashiro always says (who my professor Michael Cappello often quotes): “What does it make possible and what does it make impossible?” If someone’s decisions are very rooted in Religion what could the curriculum look like? What things may be given special attention and what items might be omitted? I think this is important to remember when analyzing curricula as well as when voting and taking part in democracy. The government has the power to make every final decision on curricula even if experts on education have put in hours of research and their expertise into creating it. It is concerning to me that we entrust the government with such power because of possible biases, but also because they do not always know the demographics and diversity of students in each school across the region they govern. 

I believe if the public is aware of the power the government has in terms of education, more people will be encouraged take part in the conversation about schools and more specifically this topic: curriculum. If more people voice their opinions and concerns, more groups of people will be represented, and hopefully the government will see the need to be much more mindful when making decisions on education.