When I think about math, I usually think about numbers and equations. I don’t think about the ways that math is done, and how it could potentially be oppressive and discriminatory. I always enjoyed math, and considered myself to be quite good at it, but I know that there were many in my class that did not have the same views as mine about math. I agree with Eddie Woo after watching “Mathematics is the sense you never knew you had.” He said in his TED talk that there are many students that close themselves off from math because they don’t believe that they are good at it. I enjoyed the analogy that he made about not being able to see, and how that doesn’t mean you just give up on being able to see. You go to the eye doctor and get glasses. This can be said for math skills, as well. I believe that we are all mathematical beings. However, there are ways in which the methods we use to teach mathematics in our schools which can be oppressive.
Math is thought of as very linear. You solve problems by following a certain order. If you show your work and do things in a rational order, you will be able to solve the problem or equation. Math is very objective, and it is not very common to see multiple methods of math being used. If teachers were to look through, for example, an Inuit perspective, it would show in another way what math could potentially look like. In Dr. Gale Russel’s lecture, she encourages teachers to look through a different lens, and see what math could look like, besides the traditional linear perspective that is dominantly used in our classrooms.
The Inuit perspective is a very interesting one because it challenges the Eurocentric ideas about the purpose of mathematics and the way we learn it. Dr. Gale Russel and Teaching mathematics and the Inuit community (Poirier, 2007) highlight the ways that our mathematic system is challenged. The first idea that is challenged is that math is a universal language. Poirier (2007) states that math is not a universal language. Different cultures have different methods to solving mathematical problems. Inuit children learn math from their mother’s tongue for their first three years in schools. They don’t learn math from using basic math skills that their teacher has taught them. The second idea that is challenged is mentioned by Gale Russel. She talks about how the Inuit have a completely different number system which is not base-10 like ours. This challenges the idea that our number system is universal. The third idea that is challenged by the math system used by the Inuit peoples involves the teaching methods (Poirier, 2007). The ways in which we teach our students math involves a teacher at the front of the classroom writing notes on the whiteboard. It is very much a pen and paper method. The Inuit’s method involves using the observation of elders and listening to enigmas (Poirier, 2007). All of these things challenge the way that we teach math, and I think it is important to recognize that this proves math does not have to be a linear process. Math can be done in different ways. As Dr. Russel says, we should all put on a different lens and gain a new perspective as to how math can be done. Understand that we are all mathematical beings.