When remembering my experience with learning math, there is no concrete examples that I can provide in terms of explicitly oppressive and/or discriminating content to myself or other students. However, while reading the work entitled Jagged Worldviews Colliding by author Leroy Little Bear, I can recognize that the math I learnt did not take into consideration nor did it sacredly value the unity and interconnectedness amongst all things on Earth and the energy and agency that all of these things hold. I can also recognize that the teaching of math, in my experience has never involved storytelling, whereas in Indigenous culture “[s]torytelling is a very important part of the educational process” (p.81) Little Bear says. I can identify more so with the type of learning that is “singular, static and objective” that Little Bear refers to as Eurocentric, in my experience with learning math (p. 82). So, I guess you could say that in my opinion, the oppression and discrimination present in my math learnings was more subtle over all rather than outright blatancy.
According to the Louise Poirier article Teaching Mathematics and the Inuit Community, three ways that Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric ideas include:
- Oral numeration always has to do with context. Figure 2 shows some of the different contexts an individual could refer to a number such as: three inside, three objects, group of three (p. 59). This idea differs from Eurocentric mathematics because in European math styles, there is no context involved… only numbers.
- Measuring length is done by using body parts such as the finger or feet. This method is used in very practical and crucial processes such as making warm parkas or boots. This is very different from the Eurocentric ways of measuring as we would never say a pair of pants needs to be five hand lengths long or anything like that, but instead we would just take a measuring tape and get exact numbers.
- Sense of space was really interesting to read about. Sense of space for the Inuit people has to do with the building and spatial relation to inuksuit. For thousands of years these people have relied on inuksuit to help them recognize where they are in space. Figure 3, which explains the many ways that someone could expresses their relative position of an inukshuk was really mind boggling to me. Eurocentric math would never use this type of language of relative description- but rather use directions of North, East, South or West and left and right and even go as far as giving exact coordinates of longitude and latitude.
The Poirier article really brings more support to the fact that mathematics in a majority of schools today in Canada shift more towards the “singular, static, and objective” side of the pendulum in comparison to Inuktitut math which I would say is more holistic and dependant on the interconnectedness to the world around people. I can see Leroy Little Bears’ definition of colonialism come to life in the dichotomy of these two mathematical systems as Eurocentric math is the standard in schools across Canada and deemed necessary for students to learn and the suppression of the Inuit worldview is ever present especially to students after grade three in the Inuit community. When it comes to truth and reconciliation I think that this way of life that has existed for so long and sustained a group of people in harsh weather conditions, should be celebrated and held as sacred and also necessary for students to learn and connect with.