Mathematics and Worldview (Reading Response – November 3, 2019)

As a general rule, prior to reading any text with a response prompt to follow I will begin by reading the question in order to orient myself. When reading the first prompt I thought to myself, “Well, actually I had a very inclusive mathematics education. We had Math Makes Sense and there were many ways to find an answer, I’m not sure how much more inclusive it could have been.” After reading only a few sentences of Little Bear’s article I knew I was incorrect in this assumption. While my upbringing used strategies for a singular and universal answer, pre and post colonial Aboriginal communities see answers within a cyclical pattern of renewing truth. While I was being policed by my math teachers, such as the cop metaphor in Little Bear’s article, it is of more importance in an Indigenous tradition that one be well rounded and independent for one’s own sake than extrinsic pressures. This article was a good reminder that our current education system, despite its efforts, continues to fail in producing anything but a Eurocentric worldview and standard of success.

Within Poirier’s article, one major theme of Inuit mathematics seemingly challenges Eurocentric knowledge: augmentation vs. simplification. For a Western mathematics learner, every step of mathematics is meant to simplify the representation of facts, figures and abstracts. According to Poirier, in an attempt to be as specific as possible, interpretation of geometry and numbers are augmented. Through this, I believe the Inuit language challenges Eurocentric ideology of numbers and figures being absolute and reminds us that mathematics itself is abstract. I found myself asking, “So what then, is Math?” despite 13 years of mandated mathematics education. Unrelated, I found Poirier’s observation interesting that it is viewed as abnormal to ask a child a question in which they would not have the answer. Although poignant, I’m unclear as to why this struck me as so opposite of our Western schooling.

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