A Rationale for Enhancing School Mathematics with Indigenous Ways of Knowing

In 1971, at a time when 67 residential schools were actively continuing Canada’s cultural genocide policy that created family dysfunctionality, Annie Stein, in a Harvard Education Review article, questioned public education’s subliminal policy:

How does  it come about that the one institution that is said to be the gateway to opportunity, the school, is  the very one that is most effective in perpetuating an oppressed and impoverished status in society?1

In 2018, Saskatchewan’s 3-year graduation rate (Grades 10-12) was 86% and 44% for non-Indigenous and Indigenous learners, respectively (Meyer et al., 2019, p. 68).2 During the previous seven years (2011-2018), both groups had improved but not equally: 14% and 11% for non-Indigenous and Indigenous learners, respectively. Inequities abound and this negative trend for Indigenous students is discouraging. The school subject with the greatest influence on graduation rates happens to be mathematics in most high schools.

Because education is the “new buffalo”3 for many future Indigenous families, Annie Stein’s question posed about 50 years ago is still highly relevant today. It defines an issue for which mathematics teachers have the empowerment to act locally and make a difference.

The Indigenous Ways of Knowing thread throughout the SaskMATH resource offers many concrete ideas, in the spirit of reconciliation, for you to become a force within the new buffalo for all your learners.

1Stein, A. (1971). Strategies for failure. Harvard Educational Review, 41, 133-179.

2Meyer, S., Aikenhead, G., Cardinal, K., Sylvestre, D., & View, T. Culture-Based School Mathematics for Reconciliation and Professional Development | McDowell Foundation. Retrieved 10 July 2020, from http://mcdowellfoundation.ca/research/culture-based-school-mathematics-for-reconciliation-and-professional-development/ (See https://saskmath.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/culture-based_math.pdf for a direct link to the document.)

3“The new buffalo” refers to the importance of education to Indigenous peoples. For countless generations across the west, the buffalo served to feed, shelter, and clothe First Nations and Métis people. Today, completing one’s education serves Indigenous people similarly through employment. Murray, J. (2012). Education is the new buffalo. Retrieved 5 July 2020, from http://www.netnewsledger.com/2012/01/30/education-is-the-new-buffalo/.

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