Numeracy and Jagged Worldviews Colliding

This week’s readings challenge us to think about the Eurocentric worldview and its collision course with Indigenous worldviews in particular the way we understand numeracy. In Jagged Worldviews Colliding, Leroy Little Bear (2000) states that colonialism “tries to maintain a singular social order by means of force and law, suppressing the diversity of human worldviews. … Typically, this proposition creates oppression and discrimination” (p. 77). This emphasis on singularity is at the heart of a Eurocentric worldview as Little Bear describes later, “one can summarize the value systems of Western Europeans as being linear and singular, static and objective” (82).  Unfortunately the collision of these two world views through colonization has created a “fragmentary worldview among Aboriginal people” (Little Bear, 84). Gale Russell has challenged us to think of a time where in our experiences of the teaching and learning of mathematics — there were aspects of it that were oppressive and/or discriminating for you or other students. I had a hard time thinking of examples of this until she spoke to our class. When she said if you had ever been told “it ok you’re really good at writing” that is oppressive, I understood because I can think of that moment for me. Somehow that seems less oppressive because I was good at other subjects so that was ok- but what if I wasn’t? Also at some point I was good at math so when did that switch and why was it ok to just stop striving for understanding?  As Gale said, “we are all mathematical creatures”. To deny that is to oppress or discriminate against part of who we are. I think that simple understanding that we are all mathematical is critically underrated. It has traditionally been so easy to dismiss success or failure by saying someone is a numbers person or they are not. That however really only values the algebra side of mathematics. I’m not great at memorizing formulas or the math of mathematicians but I am good with working with quantity, patterns, relationships, shapes, measurements, certainty and uncertainty. All of that is numeracy. That is so important to remember and that comes it quite readily in the reading from Poirier’s article: Teaching mathematics and the Inuit Community. Gale again issued a challenge for us with the reading and that was to “identify at least three ways in which Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric ideas about the purposes mathematics and the way we learn it”. First they learn in a base-20 system which is different than a base-10 system that is traditionally Eurocentric. This difference challenges the system because it challenges the singularity of there being one way to count that is correct. This also brings up the challenge of math as a common language- if 146 is written and pronounced one hundred and forty-six in the English Eurocentric counting then how do we address the idea that it is translated in a base-20 system and the Inuktitut language as twenty five times and twenty two times and many threes when language isn’t common. The other area that Inuit mathematics challenges the Eurocentric model is that is contextual. In the reading Poirier (2010) points out that the Inuit have “the number three in six different contexts” (57). This challenges the system because the oral history of the Inuktitut there is a need for precision in speaking and this requires numbers to have context. The final way that the Inuit understanding of mathematics challenges the Eurocentric worldview is that it challenges measurement as well. The Inuit measure months by how long it takes for a natural event to occur for example they measure a month by the time when caribou antlers loose their velvet (Poirier, 62). This challenges again the singularity that time is a constant. There calendar is in flux at all times. These are simply a few ways that we can start to think about disrupting and decolonizing education. There are many more ways we can start to challenge these systems but at the heart of this disruptions is realizing and letting go of the Eurocentric idea of one right.

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