Ancient African Math/Science Shatters Stereotypes

I found that this site fit beautifully into the topics for Module 2.  It is a blog posting from 2007 but it provided links to both a documentary on Africa called Cosmic Africa and to an article called Stars of the Sahara (full text available from the UBC Library) in New Scientist regarding finding evidence in Mali of the scientific and mathematics history of that area.  The two are tied together in the blog and the originator of the documentary, an Astrophysicist from South Africa named Thebe Medupe is quote extensively.  Although these quotes originate from Africa, they sound similar to some of the concerns that arise around math, science and stereotypes of North American Indigenous populations.

For example, Medupe is quoted as saying:

“…when I was 15, I started to question why everything was Eurocentric.  Textbooks were using European things and so on. So I used to ask myself whether it was because there was nothing Africa can offer. I refused to believe that. It remained a very big question for me for a long time, until I came across a review on African ethnoastronomy. I was very excited.”

October 13, 2012   No Comments

Nurturing the Learning Spirit of First Nations Students

Nurturing the Learning Spirit of First Nations Students is a “Report of the National Panel on First Nation Elementary and Secondary Education for Students on Reserve.”  The panel, as listed in the report, has three members, all of whom have been involved in Indigenous education, but only one of which is Indigenous himself.  However, the report caught and held my attention because of its emphasis on recognizing and valuing traditional Indigenous knowledge.  It draws the distinction between the piece of paper (graduation certificate) that says we are educated compared to the education we receive from our parents and community.

My dad learned different things and the different skills that are not recognized by a piece of paper. I am proud of my dad and I’m learning from him. And I cannot learn this from my teacher. … The only difference between the two types of education that I have discussed is that one is recognized and one isn’t. We need papers behind our names to live in today’s world but we still need those traditional teachings to learn who we are and where we come from.” (Page ii)




October 5, 2012   No Comments

Native American Complexity

Computation, Complexity and Coding in Native American Knowledge Systems by Ron Eglash

I found this article/paper interesting because it delves deeply into the science and mathematics of a number of Native American peoples.  This is background knowledge that is useful to me as an upper level math teacher as I can use the examples authentically in class and tie them in to the curriculum.  I also found this article interesting because it begins with a discussion of stereotypes and assumptions that are common in the portrayal of Native Americans.  The following is a quote from the first paragraph:

“We see these assumptions at work in many popular television documentaries, where one hears of the “vanishing native” who “lived at one with nature.”  … We need to take special efforts to open our eyes to the dynamic histories and technological sophistication of indigenous cultures–for example, to think about active indigenous ecological knowledge rather than the passive portraits we so often hear, e.g. “Indians lived as part of the ecosystem.” ” (Eglash, 2002)

I think it is important to fight the common stereotypes by contradicting them with information about how sophisticated Indigenous knowledge systems were (and are), in a way that places those systems in context and respects the values associated with them.  This article dovetails with my research interests and with the emphasis of Module 2.


Eglash, Ron. “Computation, Complexity and Coding in Native American Knowledge Systems.” in Judith Hankes and Gerald Fast (ed) Changing the Faces of Mathematics: Perspectives on Indigenous People of North America. Reston, VA: NCTM 2002.  Retrieved online at:



October 5, 2012   No Comments

You can’t just “add culture and stir”

The title of this post is a quote from the paper How to tell the difference between multicultural mathematics and ethnomathematics (Eglash, 2001).  The paper is from the NCTM 2001 national meeting and identifies the difference between adding trite, multicultural comments into mathematics questions and truly understanding the idea of ethnomathematics.  The goal of ethnomathematics is to place mathematics learning in authentic contexts for specific populations.  The paper is written from the perspective of ethnic minorities in the United States, however it extrapolates well to the discussion of mathematics and Indigenous students.  The paper states that:

… ethnomathematics directly challenges the cultural stereotypes and genetic myths most damaging to both minority and majority ethnic groups.” (p. 2)

October 4, 2012   No Comments

Does Math Education … Devalue Indigenous Culture?

This research paper, Does Mathematics Education in Australia Devalue Indigenous Culture? Indigenous Perspectives and non-Indigenous Reflections (Baturo, Cooper, Matthews & Watego; 2005) has a unique perspective.  Two of the researchers are Indigenous people and two of the researchers are not.  The paper is written using two different fonts – each font representing one of the perspectives.  The paper states that:

… it is likely that a stereotypical belief in the primitiveness of Indigenous culture is the driving force behind the actions of mathematics teachers, educators and researchers who work in Indigenous communities” (p. 514)

I need to read and review this paper in greater depth, but I feel that it matches both my research interests and the emphasis of Module 2 on stereotypes.



October 4, 2012   No Comments

Janet’s Statement of Connection

As a math teacher, I am continually aware of the under-representation of aboriginal students in more academic math courses and the over-representation of aboriginal students in lower level math courses.  This is an issue because mathematics is a key entry requirement into many programs at the post-secondary level. Low success rates in mathematics, particularly in the academic math courses, restricts choices for aboriginal students and has a direct impact on the number of aboriginal students in health related careers, business and science.

My weblogs will be focussed around finding ways to support aboriginal students in mathematics, as well as how technology might fit into this support.  Finding ways to authentically use and promote aboriginal mathematics in the classroom will be one area of research.  Researching ways that First Nations peoples have traditionally taught and learned and how our classrooms might be adapted to support these styles of learning will be a second area of research.  At this point for my final project, I am looking at creating a compilation of resources, research and links that can act as a resource for classroom teachers, with the ultimate goal of supporting our aboriginal and First Nations students in mathematics.

Janet Barker

September 21, 2012   No Comments

Aboriginal Perspectives

Aboriginal Perspectives is a site dedicated to providing teachers with lessons, videos, games and workshops that include Aboriginal content and focus.  Each of the videos is of a First Nations person or persons, from different age groups, and is accompanied by lesson plan suggestions.  This site is a joint venture between the University of Regina and the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program.

September 17, 2012   No Comments

Math Catcher

Math Catcher:Mathematics Through Aboriginal Storytelling is a site dedicated to introducing math topics via Aboriginal storytelling methods.  There are stories, video clips, background, rationale and links to conferences.  The project this site stemmed from was initiated at a First Nations Math Education Workshop held at the Banff International Research Station (BIRS) for Mathematical Innovation and Discovery.

One of the goals of this project is to promote mathematics for all peoples, but particularly in a way that will allow Aboriginal children to see themselves and their culture connected to mathematics, and to promote Aboriginal traditions amongst non-Aboriginal students.  The stories on the site are available in both English and various Aboriginal languages.


September 17, 2012   No Comments

Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations

The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) site hosts a number of topics, identified as secretariats, including Education and Training.  Within the Education and Training Secretariat, there was a link (amongst many) to a Science, Math and Technology Outreach Program that outlined a number of events, objectives, science fairs and communique’s.  While this page is of special interest to me, there are many other educational objectives listed on the Education and Training page.

The viewpoint of this site is from the First Nation’s perspective and it spoke to a number of the neutrality issues raised in Module 1.  The 5 main goals and objectives of the FSIN are listed on the About FSIN page.

September 16, 2012   No Comments

Teaching Mathematics in a First Peoples Context

Teaching Mathematics in a First Peoples Context is a document produced by the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) that provides content, lessons, ideas and rationale for including authentic First Nations content and viewpoints in teaching mathematics.  There are suggestions for contacting local First People communities, as well as many links to websites that provide background and information for the lesson plans outlined in the 157 page document.

The FNESC is an independent society with a vision to provide high-quality, relevant education to First Nations youth.  Their website,, outlines their goals, organization and hosts a wealth of information and links regarding education and First Nations students.  One of the pages on the site, Curriculum & Teacher Resources, is designed for K-12 public educators.  The site states that:

“FNESC, the First Nations Schools Association and the provincial government have been developing new First Peoples curriculum and classroom resources in order to create more inclusive schools and classrooms and better inform all students  about First Nations issues and realities. Curriculum development work is ongoing.” (

September 15, 2012   No Comments