Math Discrimination and Cultural Difference in Mathematics

My Experience in Math

Since I was the only person in my class throughout grade school my math class experience was a very different scenario than most. Unlike other subjects, math needs to be taught in a specific order that coordinates with your grade level. Therefore, math was the only subject that I never got placed into another grade level to learn, for math I was lucky enough to receive one on one lessons with teachers or Tas. This way I was able to ask questions, focus on specific areas that I struggle in, work on questions with assistance, and my favourite; learning how to use the strategies that made the most sense to me. This was my favourite aspect of learning independently because I never had to learn the confusing strategies or attempt to follow along in lessons that used these challenging tactics. Despite my usual luck, one day my math lessons lined up well with the grade above me, so instead of my teacher repeating the lessons twice, she taught us all together. This was very challenging for me because not only was she using strategies I wasn’t familiar with, but I was also too afraid to ask questions with so many of my peers listening. This event is what lead me to believe that math is, in fact, discriminating because it is a subject that only gifted people can easily grasp, teachers often teach using the strategies they like rather than teaching based on students what students prefer, and finally many students are scared to ask questions because they fear judgement from their peers.

Teaching Mathematics in the Inuit Community

It is a common misconception that mathematics is perceived exactly the same way around the entire globe. However, this concept is challenged by the Inuit community as they look at numbers in a slightly different light. For instance, instead of a base-10 system, they use a base-20. This indicates that there isn’t a universal language when it comes to mathematics and that it can be different from culture to culture. Another way that Inuit math is different is that they do not have specific forms of measurement. Rather than using centimetres or inches they choose to use body parts such as fingers, hands, arms, or even legs to code for specific measurements when making clothing or building. Furthermore, even their calendar doesn’t follow a specific system, but instead the month’s change when specific naturally occurring events take place such as birds laying their eggs or caribous antlers falling off. Finally, traditional Inuit math is not taught the same as mainstream math, as it is only taught orally and has no written form. Traditionally Inuit math is taught verbally through listening to an elder or enigmas. Even though many people believe that all math is exactly the same, the Inuit community challenges these Eurocentric ideas about the purpose of math and the way it should be taught.

Bias Lenses

Upbringing

I was raised in a very small town where the school-age ranged from grades K-12, but when it came to diversity amongst students there was none at all. We were all middle-class white people that came from farming and ranching backgrounds, all with very similar views and therefore similar stereotype’s about people who were ‘different’ from us. However, as kids, we rarely ever seen anyone who was ‘different’ which, paired with the stereotypes we were raised with lead us to believe that we were not only considered ‘normal’, but looking ‘different’ was usually considered bad. Of course, our teachers, parents, and community would never consciously teach us that diversity among race and skin colour is a bad thing, but children are like sponges and they absorb everything they hear, which is usually more than adults think. At community events, we heard every old farmers view on the “drunken Indian” in the next town over or “new black family” that had just moved into another nearby town. Of course, this insensitive language wasn’t used by school teachers, but thinking back there were times when our teachers accidentally even taught us racial prejudice themselves. Now there is a big push in my school to ensure that everyone is seen as equals, these lessons are being taught through the K-12 classrooms and I believe that it is making a huge difference in how the students speak about others and how they view those who are ‘different’. Although I began to unlearn my prejudiced views in high school, university is what really jumpstarted the unlearning process. It wasn’t until I began my journey of becoming a teacher that I noticed how much these stereotypes really shaped my outlook on life. ECS 110 really opened my eyes to the idea of white privilege and how everyone really is the same. I think everything taught in the education program is meant to build us into generally unbiased educators and therefore, teach the future in an unbiased way.

 Single Stories

After watching “The Danger of a Single Story” I got thinking about what single stories I may have been exposed to throughout my life. Despite the school experience I mentioned above, as we got older, we touched more on different cultures and people around the world. One group we somewhat focused in on was First Nations peoples in Canada. Teachers discussed how they used to live before colonization, and they talked about how settlers came and started farming the land, and finally how children were taken from their homes and put into residential schools. We never really went in-depth about how these events affect First Nations, but we focused our attention on how they effected white settlers. Basically, we learned that colonization was bad Indigenous people, yet good for the European settlers. They tried to advocate for Indigenous equality while unconsciously saying that colonization wasn’t all that bad after all. We were never told that the treaty agreements were purposely written so that the elders did not understand and that white people essentially took the land. However, instead, we were taught that they willingly signed a contract handing over their land. Overall, we rarely heard stories from an Indigenous point of view because it was only important that we knew and understood the settler’s reasons for their actions.

Developing Curriculum and Treaty Education

Part 1) According to the Levin article, how are school curricula developed and implemented? What new information/perspectives does this reading provide about the development and implementation of school curriculum? Is there anything that surprises you or maybe that concerns you?

Reading Levin’s article really opened to my eyes to how the curriculum is developed and implemented into schools across Saskatchewan. It is evident that politics have a lot to do with what is being taught to our students, but it may come as a surprise that there is a push to teach more on beliefs rather than actual proven facts. It is also fascinating that many adults wish that there was more of every subject taught to their children, but they do not want their children in school any longer than they already are. As this wish is obviously unrealistic and therefore results in the development of the curriculum that still stands today, but it is interesting that so many people want this wish to become a reality. Citizens want the curriculum to be developed around what is ‘mainstream’ or ‘normal’ which in many cases is not what students need to learn more about. This push back from society is what makes the curriculum such a broad document allowing teachers to approach it however they see fit, yet not all educators are on the same page and where some might engage their students in deep understanding of treaty education materials, others will just barely touch on the topic and focus on what they deem as more important lessons. The broad curriculum is concerning to me as a future teacher because I fear that I will miss opportunities to teach my students about important concepts that are not directly outlined in the curriculum and therefore deprive them of crucial information. Though this idea is probably inevitable regardless of how the curriculum is designed, more guidance may allow teachers to cover topics that are important in the real world rather than just the topics they deem as important.

Part 2) After reading pages 1-4 of the Treaty Education document, what connections can you make between the article and the implementation of Treaty Education in Saskatchewan? What tension might you imagine were part of the development of the Treaty Education curriculum?

After reading the Treaty Education document I thought about how important treaty education is for young people to learn about, yet there is still such a push back from society when it is implemented in classrooms. Learning about indigenous culture and background is a huge part of Canadian history and it is important for all people, regardless of age, to understand how Aboriginal people in Canada suffered and still continue to suffer from the result of colonization. Despite this, many people do not support treaty education and think it is unimportant, yet it is still mandatory to teach, why? Many educators (but not all) would argue that students need to make connections to how First Nations in Canada have been treated in the past in order to create a more positive image of Indigenous peoples and allow them to live equally amongst all Canadians. This change can only happen if students are educated about the truth behind Canada’s dark past and create a generation who understands our mistakes and advocates for a better relationship with First Nations in the future. When treaty education was first made mandatory to teach in all classroom’s I imagine that there was a huge push back from society saying that this information is not important. However, as more students talk to their parents about learning the effects of colonization on Indigenous people and educate their parents about what it means to be treaty people society continues to be more accepting of the topic and are beginning to understand how crucial it is for students to learn and understand.

Dear Practicing Teacher…

Dear practicing teacher,

Thank you so very much for considering me as a helpful resource while concurring this challenging topic in your practicum classroom. While treaty education is such a challenging topic for many people to grasp it is an extremely important part of learning especially here in Canada. It sounds as though, due to a lack of background knowledge that your students should have been introduced to in elementary school, they have gained a bias few around indigenous people. This means that it is crucial for you to help them develop a deeper and more honest understanding of aboriginal peoples in Canada to help them create a positive and unbiased view of First Nations people.

To begin teacher treaty education to your grade 12 students you need to figure out what they already know and also to discover how much they still have to learn. To do this you could use an anonymous question poll, this way students don’t need to fear being incorrect or unsure about the topic. Once you collect this information, you may find it helpful to see what grade level their knowledge about treaty education matches and start teaching at that level. For instance, if they understand something that is an outcome in the grade 4 curriculum, but they haven’t quite grasped the grade 5 goals, begin with fifth-grade treaty education. This may seem silly, but without a proper foundation, the students may never understand the content. Once you’ve created a concrete base of knowledge around treaty signing and indigenous history, then you can dive in and teach them about the more complex topics like their living conditions.

I think that everyone needs to be informed about the importance of treaty education regardless of their skin colour and/or their peer’s skin colour and though it may be challenging it could be rewarding to demonstrate this importance to not only the students you are teaching but also your cooperating teacher. Indigenous history is a huge part of Canadian history and it is important for all Canadians to recognize how much First Nations have suffered from colonization. While teaching this gigantic topic it may help to remember that treaty education doesn’t just stop when the bell rings at the end of your social studies class, treaty education can and should be incorporated into many different areas during a regular school. To understand Native culture, it is useful to incorporate it into a variety of different types of lessons. In addition to educating the class about Aboriginal culture, ensure that you also incorporated Canadian culture into your lessons, as students need to develop their own cultural identity as well. Finally, remember after each lesson to go back and think about what worked well and what areas needed improving so you can think about this experience while teaching treaty education in your own classroom and learn from your mistakes.

Lastly, congratulations on being trusted to teach this important concept! I assure you that I have not supplied you with all the answers to teaching treaty education perfectly and there will be many more bumps along this journey, but the outcome will be so rewarding for you. Don’t forget this tough experience is shaping you into an amazing teacher! If you need anything else don’t hesitate to ask. Goodluck you’re going to crush it!

Sincerely,

Teachers supporting treaty education

Learning Through Place

Reinhabitation

In this week’s assigned reading “Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing”, reinhabitation was expressed when the author outlined the need for elders to teach their youth about culture, heritage, and language. It is important to Indigenous people that traditions and certain ways of knowing are passed down through generations and this can only happen if the older generations pass their knowledge on to young people. One key aspect of reinhabitation for the Mushkegowuk people is teaching Native language to their children. Many Native languages are endangered or have already gone extinct because younger generations did not get the opportunity to learn them as a result of residential schools. Therefore, elders must teach these traditional languages now to ensure they do not disappear forever. It is also important for younger generations to learn other things as well, such as; the importance of the land in Native culture. Children need to understand their history, where they came from, and how their ancestors lived. Learning how to live off the land can help connect the young indigenous individual to their ancestors and help them understand their roots and how they came to be. Reinhabitation for indigenous people is only possible if they are educated and are guided through the process of uncovering their identity and cultural background.

Decolonization

Decolonization was expressed in this reading when there was a push to rename the places around the river to have Cree names rather than English. This representation of an important Native language ensures that the language will not be forgotten in history and that there will be Cree words displayed on signs in that area forever to help people learn and understand the language and its relevance not only to indigenous people but to society as a whole. It is crucial for everyone to learn about the history of indigenous people because they were the first inhibitors of the land. Understanding their history is important, as their background is a huge part of the Canadian identity and they must be valued members of history and society today. However, decolonization is not easy and it cannot be achieved by simply renaming English places with Cree names but, to achieve decolonization Indigenous people must “continue to build on a historical identity in a vast area that was never ‘given up’ to European settlers”, ensure education around First Nations history is taught to youth, and push for more cultural and linguistic representation in Canada.

In the Classroom

As a future elementary teacher part of my job will be to ensure that all youth have a well-rounded knowledge about the history of Indigenous and how important they are to Canada. As this is an awfully large and rather daunting topic for young children teaching about First Nations could be a difficult task. However, I hope to incorporate First Nations history into my classroom through children’s storybooks that explain this large topic in a way that even children can understand. After reading these stories children could make a craft representing something they learned about in the book, maybe making a teepee or dreamcatcher, or students could even attempt a small beading or weaving project. This craft could even be as simple as drawing a picture about what the story taught them, anything that helps the students visualize the story would be beneficial. I think that I will also do activities with students like orange shirt day and use videos to help them understand the reasons behind orange shirt day and why we wear our orange shirts on September 30th. I also think that it would be extremely beneficial to invite an elder to the classroom to tell stories about their experiences and teach children about their culture. Elders could also even teach students a few words in their Native language to show the importance of the language. Teaching young elementary students about indigenous people is important because if this information is not taught properly students can create a prejudiced view of First Nations by listening to peers, media or even relatives leading to a misunderstanding of the true identity of Indigenous people.

 

 

 

 

 

Not Everyone Can Be a “Good” Student

What does it mean to be a “good” student according to the common-sense?

The traditional “good” student label is often placed upon students who do not question or criticize their teachers form of pedagogy. They do as they are told and do not act out when they disagree with concepts taught in class. They are often the students who can sit still and listen quietly during lessons, but also actively participate during class discussions. “Good” students often do well on examines and therefore get good grades. They usually follow daily school routines without question and generally make their teachers job easier.

Which students are privileged by this definition of the good student?

Children privileged with the title of “good” students’ have beliefs that most likely align with the beliefs of the school system. Meaning they agree with how lessons are being delivered to them and what the content is teaching them. These learners are usually very intelligent and retain information easily. These students are not commonly those with learning disabilities that cause them to learn or act differently from their class mates. Finally, “good” students follow the lead of teachers and do not question their ways.

What is made impossible to see/understand/believe because of these common-sense ideas?

Due to the common sense idea of a “good” student society, especially teachers, struggle to reach the students who do not fall under this category. It is hard for educators to find ways to effectively teach student like A and N because they are constantly challenging the ways of learning that are laid out by the education system. They chose to challenge them because they do not work for students like them, as these ways of learning are only intended for student’s society deems as “good”. It is difficult for teachers to understand why “bad” students act in such a way and it causes educators to grow frustrated with these students before taking the time to uncover what is wrong or attempt to address the need of these students. Many teachers do not take the time to adapt lessons for these students or explain why certain ideas need to be taught in school. This neglection to explain information to students only increases the teacher’s frustration when student’s behaviour and ability to learn in traditional ways does not improve. Overall, falling victim to believing that the common sense narrative of the ideal or “good” student causes society and teacher alike to believe there is only one way to learn and those who learn differently are “bad” students.

Play-Based Education

Discovering Benefits:

For my ‘Critical Summary’ I have decided to write about play-based curriculum in early learning classrooms. Play-based learning is often a very controversial topic within the education field, this is because many individuals do not see the benefits of the method. Some people critic this area of curriculum because their main focus is on assessment rather than the development of students. As a future elementary teacher, I argue that while there may be challenges involved with play-based learning, there are also plenty of benefits behind this form of education. The play to learn concept was implemented into the kindergarten curriculum to ensure adequate social development occurred early in each child’s school experience. However, scholars have not only proven that students involved in play-based learning develop outstanding social skills, but there are also academic benefits to playing in the classroom. Although teachers have discovered the many benefits of play-based education, this triumph was not easy to achieve.

The Drawbacks:

When educators use play as a learning tool in their classroom they often struggle in several different areas. Many teachers have difficulty deciding what their role is during students play. Many articles define play-based learning as child directed play with minimal adult direction, when following this strict definition educators fear that important curriculum criteria will not be met. This fear leads into another challenge faced by early childhood educators, how can all aspects of the provincial curriculum be met if we are supposed to allow students be self-directed? Some articles outline that if adequate stations, that target certain aspects of the curriculum, are set up around the classroom, learning goals will be met. However, other scholars discovered that this tactic does not always succeed, as students usually gravitate towards activates that interest them and veer away the ones that do not, resulting in certain areas being very strong and others extremely weak.

Moving Forward…  

In my paper I plan to outline the benefits and drawbacks of play-based learning and how this form of teaching can be used to enhance lessons and make learning fun for all students. I hope to discover solutions to the challenges related to teaching through play so that future teachers like myself can create a great learning environment for out students. However, to find solutions I must first figure out the cause of these issues and why there is a large disconnect between the curriculum and how teachers are expected to deliver it using play-based education.