Challenging Eurocentric ideas about mathematics

Little bears article:

Prior to this reading when I initially read the first question I was puzzled. I never knew that mathematics could be oppressive and/or discriminatory. We were always taught that mathematics is a universal subject meaning that is the same worldwide. After reading this article though, I realized that mathematics can in fact be oppressive or discriminatory to students. The way mathematics is taught is very european and does not include how any other culture goes about teaching mathematics. The fact that we were even taught that there is only way to teach/learn mathematics is oppressive in itself. Once I got to university, I had to take one mathematics class and in this mathematics class we learnt about Mayan numbers. I learnt that they used different symbols such as dots for different numbers. Furthermore, in ECS 100 I did a paper on teaching indigenous ways of knowing through mathematics. Although it is proven to be difficult to incorporate, it is possible. You need the right resources such as an elder and do some research but it is possible.

Poirier’s article:

Three ways that inuit challenges Eurocentric ideas about math and ways in which we learn it:

1.) Measuring length: Inuit women use certain parts of their body to measure length rather than using tools or units. For example, Inuit women use the palm of their hands to make atigi (parkas).

2.) Counting: In Eurocentric mathematics, we have a base-10 counting system. This means that every thing is counted and measured in accordance to 10. While in contrast, in the Inuit culture mathematics is a base-20. So for example 40= twenty two (times), 60= twenty one (times) and so forth.

3.) Oral mathematics: The Inuit people would furthermore use a system in which you express mathematics orally. This means that math wouldn’t have needed writing tools and would only be expressed orally.


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