Gaining Pedagogical Insight of How to Teach Mathematics for Meaningful Learning

            As I did my curriculum critique assignment on the grade 6 mathematics curriculum, the article “Jagged Worldviews Colliding” by Leroy Little Bear (2000) was really interesting to me because I was thinking about this topic extensively. I chose grade six mathematics as a focus to challenge myself to step out of my Arts Education comfort zone. I know from my schooling experience mathematics was not my favourite subject and I saw with my peers it often gave many students stress, anxiety, and frustration. In elementary school I did not really consider if the teaching and learning of mathematics was oppressive or discriminating of any students. As I got older I started to become more aware about different learning styles and how cultural bias and oppression are embedded into society in many different ways, and how you can see this in classrooms. For example, in grade nine, students were placed in modified, regular, or pre-AP math classes. The pre-AP math class was almost completely higher socio-economic white students. These class sections were organized by the high school teachers in conjunction with the grade eight teachers as we registered in grade nine. Although the people in these different class groups changed a bit in my four years of high school, they mainly stayed the same even though I know there were many students who were in the regular classes that could have benefitted from faster paced AP math classes. Additionally, most math instruction followed a teacher facilitated, product based curriculum model which only benefitted certain learners. In the readings, Leroy Little Bear discusses how the “education and socialization of a child . . . is a collective responsibility” (Little Bear, 2000, p. 81). I think moving towards this mentality would be a positive shift towards a praxis model and be more supportive of diverse learners.

            In the article “Teaching mathematics and the Inuit community” by Louise Poirier (2007), this view of the collective responsibility of education is elaborated with suggestions of a community centered model for teaching mathematics. One way this is exemplified is how traditionally Inuit teaching of mathematics was “based on observing and elder or listening to enigmas” (Poirier, 2007, p. 55). Another example of Inuit mathematics challenging Eurocentric ideas for mathematics is the land or place-based pedagogy of ‘localization’ which is outlined to be “the exploration of one’s spatial environment and the symbolization of that environment with the help of models, diagrams, drawings, words, or other means” (Poirier, 2007, p. 56). This is such a positive and inclusive way of learning for many different learning styles and abilities. Another interesting traditional Inuit mathematics skill passed down from many generations was using body parts as measuring tools (Poirier, 2007). This has been done by many different cultures for centuries and is still often employed as an easy math tool to this day. I myself sometimes use the length of my arm or hand to measure things. This is a valuable skill for children to realize that some of their best measurement tools are their bodies. This definitely challenges the ruler and compass measuring tools of Eurocentric ideas for mathematics.

            Finally, I just want to say how much I enjoyed the TED Talk video about how math is a sense. Being in Arts Education, I am always considering how to turn lessons into aesthetic experiences and connect to the senses for deeper learning. Many people think about math being an all left brain focused subject area. However, this video inspired me to see the art of math and how it can connect to the beauty of nature and our lives in a meaningful way. This motivates me to continue to find ways to love math more and more so I can be a positive role model for students to find their own love for math.

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