Is there Oppression in Mathematics?

(blog ten)

  1. At the beginning of the reading, 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). Think back on your experiences of the teaching and learning of mathematics — were there aspects of it that were oppressive and/or discriminating for you or other students?

As a students I was definitely oblivious to the oppression and discrimination of the learning I received. Being someone who is white privileged in a white dominant school I was almost never exposed to other ways of knowing. Before today’s presentation with Gale Russell I was never faced with the, now troubling, thought that I was begin oppressive in my learning and that I could have continued that in my own teaching. By not providing a window of world views beyond our Euro-Western one we are degrading students who may learn in these views, we are also keeping our other students from learning in ways that could benefit their mathematical learning. For some students this type of learning could be crucial to their understanding and development, so why hold these views from them.

  1. After reading Poirier’s article: Teaching mathematics and the Inuit Community, identify at least three ways in which Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric ideas about the purposes mathematics and the way we learn it.

One of the most interesting things I learned from Gale’s presentation and Poirier’s article was that the Inuit community learns their numbers through oral tradition. Because of the oral tradition they have numbers in multiple contexts and it has ”different forms according to the context” (2007). They also learn their math in base 20 (2007), whereas we learn our math in base 10. I did not even know that there was or how to work in any other base, but 10, until my university math course in year one. Gale was also discussing that their way of learning mathematics was not in isolation, but rather they learn in context, using real life situations. For me, I enjoyed learning math either way, but I can see how for some students learning in context can be way easier and more beneficial.

Unlearning a Single Story

(blog nine)

I do not remember a lot of diversity in the stories I was told when I was young, and as I got in the older grades I only remember talking about some stories about other countries briefly and very surface discussions. I would have to say my “single story” was a Euro-Western story that we created and continues to be told in most of our schools. The white, old guy’s truth was the dominant truth I remember hearing. I think that my schooling has shared a dominant single story, but they have shared some other stories as well. And I like to believe that it has given me a larger lense in which to read the world. Although, being a white privileged person I know I do have a racist mind sometimes due to the stereotypes and the other racist privileged people I grew up around. I have always had racist thoughts because of this, but I have never belittled anyone or acted unfair to anyone because of their race. And as I continue through my degree I do not intend to bring this lens with me. I love learning about other cultures and races, and I have been given many resources now to help me bring diversity forwards and break my racist thoughts and prevent them from being in my classroom.

Unlearning comes with educating oneself and others. It means trying to find resources to support your learning and teaching. I am also constantly trying to remind myself that I have grown up with stereotypes and I need to consciously stop thinking about those and remember everyone has their own stories and we are all equals. I think that the fact these are only thoughts, and I have never acted on them by treating anyone different or engaging with them, I am making good progress. I can definitely come further though and stop my thoughts and continue to educate myself with multiple stories of various perspectives. I look forward to continuing to learn and continuing to have access to resources.

My School Citizenship Experiences

(blog eight)

Learning roles of citizenship is incredibly important in schools, I have always believed this. I always thought my school did an amazing job having us participate in fundraisers and go out in the community, but after lecture on Monday and discussing different levels of citizenship I feel some tension with my thoughts and experiences. My school did several different fundraising activities for various organizations. Some that stick out were for the Food Credit Canada food drives. In exchange for a non-perishable food item students could wear their hats, we counted items for “house” points, created models out of the food and so on. At the end of the food drive FCC members would come in and they would talk with us about their company and the importance of our donations. But we never were given further resources or information about how to get more involved, to become justice-oriented citizens and actually help the local people  with hunger and how we could support these people more long term. And often we would collect donations and talk little about what for or how to become more involved making me think we were more of personally- responsible citizens than participatory in most cases.

One fundraiser that will always be close to my heart was one I started in my local school and then that reached out to my entire community. We were raising money for a local community member who was in need of an expensive wheelchair due to an unexpected and tragic disease that caused his limbs to no longer function. I did an interview with him and asked specific questions about this rare disease he was diagnosed with, I learned as much as I could about his life and all he knew about his disease. From there I got some peers together and some teacher support and we began organizing and running multiple fundraising activities, including a massive community bottle drive that raised over a thousand dollars. It was an amazing experience and I was extremely grateful for all the support. Enough money was raised to buy his wheelchair and even some other supports he needed. I thought I was a full on active citizen, but after learning about what it means to be a justice-oriented citizen, I understand there were steps that I could have taken to further my participation to become a more worldly- citizen.

I believe that in most cases it has been made impossible to become a justice-oriented citizen for many reasons. One, I did not even know there were three “levels” of citizenship until reading Westheimer’s article. Also I never felt a support to become further involved in organizations from teachers or most presenters. Organizations were “in the moment” topics as well; we only discussed them in the season they were globally recognized and then it seemed they were forgotten until the next year. I hope to provide more resources for future students and to make the importance of organizations known over the entire year, not just when globally recognized.

Treaty Education & Relationships

(blog seven)

The purpose of teaching Treaty Education, whether your classroom has many, a few, one, or no First Nations, Metis, and/ or Inuit (FNMI) students is to help build relationships, to share history, to become connected. Our history is a huge aspect of how we live today, the relationships we have, the commonsense ideas we have, the land we live on, and it is incredibly important for all to understand our history in order to move forward and build stronger relationships.  Dwayne Donald defined colonialism “as an extended process of denying relationship” with places we live, on our head and our heart, with people who look different from us in his video. “Everyone is colonized” he states, and I agree we all have biases, we all recognize our physical differences. And he explains how there is a disconnect between settlers and FNMI peoples due to our perspectives and lack of relationship from history to even now. He is challenging us to deconstruct the past we share and to face our divides in order to build relationships so we can all live together in peace with equality among us. Cynthia Chambers in her article suggests the same idea, that there is a serious disconnect between peoples and that immigrants and people today have spent too much time trying to “break with the past” in order to become modern. But we cannot just forget. We need to come together, we need to listen to each other, accept each other’s stories, and build relationships with one another.

As Chambers says, “the treaties would still be my story, and my family’s story. It is our story: the one about the commons, what was shared and what was lost.”. And I agree, it is not the FNMI’s stories versus the European settler’s stories, it is our stories together that have created the environment we live on and within today. The settlers and the FNMI peoples signed these treaties, it took two sides to make an agreement, therefore the treaties involve both parties. We need to take responsibility for our commitments to the treaties as well as the FNMI people. So, to me, “we are all treaty people” means that we share our history, we need to continue to build together, to listen to one another, in order to create our futures together in a way that all people’s opinions/ perspective/ beliefs are of equal value. The classroom is where children spend hours and hours for thirteen years of their lives and as educators it is our responsibility to help ALL children, race and culture aside, express their perspectives and learnings.

For an educator struggling for her students positive engagement in the topic of Treaty Education I think it is important for them to explain to their students that Europeans did not write history alone, nor are they superior in their beliefs today. Educators need to, as Donald challenged, bring forward the tensions of history between races instead of making it an informational problem. Educators need to dig deeper and share how our history belittled FNMI peoples and how these relationships still are being repaired today. I also like his idea of reconstructing the idea of culture, thinking of it as a verb in that “it is something you do or create” not as a racial divide. Us, educators need to be comfortable with our idea of our own relationships with FNMI peoples in order to help our students build their relationships.