In my own experience in learning Math, I cannot say that I remember one meaningful application of FNMI ways of knowing. Maybe the problem was the textbooks, or maybe it was that teachers felt overwhelmed with the amount of material that needed to be covered. Whatever the reason, there was no instance in my time learning Math 9, Foundations and Pre-Calculus 10, Workplace 10, Foundations 20, Pre-Calculus 20, Foundations 30 or Pre-Calculus 30 that I ever learned anything but the dominant discourse about math. What are the causes of this? How could I have gone through thirteen years of learning math, all different kinds of math used for all kinds of purposes, and never once encountered one word problem or equation that displayed any way of knowing other than what Math Makes Sense says are appropriate applications of math? Is this discrimination, oppression even? That’s hard to say, but I do know that it was a majorly missed opportunity on the part of every math teacher I ever had to introduce students to FNMI ways of knowing in Math.
Three ways in which Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric mathematic ideas:
- Firstly, students learn mathematics in their own language. This can challenge the ways in which students understand concepts, such as using a word meaning “indivisible” for the number “0”. “Their tradition being essentially an oral one, the Inuit have developed a system for expressing numbers orally.”, this means that they have had to adopt European ways of representing written numbers.
- Second, the traditional Inuit calendar challenges Eurocentric ways of knowing by characterizing months based off of natural events. For example, September’s number of days fluctuates depending on how long it takes a caribou’s antlers to shed their velvet.
- Third, traditionally, the Inuit use their bodies for measurement in contrast to the Metric or even Imperial systems used worldwide today.
Louise Poirier, Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ucjs20, Teaching mathematics and the Inuit community.