Indigenous Ways of Knowing Connection to Establishing a Rich and Safe Environment

Recurrent Learning Strengths

Contrary to popular belief, there is little evidence that a stereotype “learning style” for Indigenous learners exists. Instead, evidence points to their “recurrent learning strengths” that tend to be found among Indigenous learners. These strengths include:

  • holistic more than analytic
  • visual more than verbal
  • oral more than written
  • practical more than theoretical
  • reflective more than trial-and-error
  • contextual more than non-contextual
  • personally relational more than an impersonal acquisition of isolated facts and algorithms
  • experiential more than passive
  • oriented to storytelling more than didactic sessions, and
  • taking time to reflect more than quickly coming to an answer.

These recurrent learning strengths are evident in non-Indigenous learners to varying degrees, as well (Aikenhead et al., 2014, p. 135).1.

Some Considerations for Fostering a Supportive Math Learning Environment:2

  • Create a community of mathematics learners that includes the educator.
  • Insist that we are all “math people” and seek examples to show practical examples that illustrate this.
  • Value the thinking that all students bring to the classroom.
  • Help students to appreciate that errors and failed attempts are opportunities for learning and have value.
  • Focus on understanding so that students recognize that mathematics must always make sense to them
  • See the student as a whole person, paying attention to all developmental domains when planning instruction, assessment and learning (e.g., provide opportunities to move while learning, plan for supportive social interactions, consider the emotional impact of instruction).
  • Make learning the goal by supporting every student in playing an active role in his/her learning.
  • Be careful about offering unsolicited help, and especially only targeting low achievers for assistance. Listen to each student about his/her goals and needs.
  • Provide cognitively challenging tasks and take the students’ strengths, needs, interests and views into account when planning learning opportunities.
  • Provide timely and descriptive feedback that will help students to improve.
  • Inspire students to see math in the world around them.

“Reconciliation is not an event. It’s something that needs to enter into the way we do things.”3

It is imperative that teachers understand Indigenous lesson plans must be considered holistically. That means that the Indigenous teachings and intentions that are part of the language and culture must be considered. Non-Indigenous teachers should consider consulting Indigenous advisors to ensure that the integrity of the content is not unintentionally lost or compromised.

1Aikenhead, G., Brokofsky, J., Bodnar, T., Clark, C., Foley, C., … Strange, G. (2014). Enhancing school science with Indigenous knowledge: What we know from teachers and research. Saskatoon, Canada: Saskatoon Public School Division with Retrieved from

2Ministry of Education of Ontario. (2018). Yes, I Can! Paying Attention to Well-Being in the Mathematics Classroom. Capacity Building K-12 Series. p. 8. ​​Retrieved from

3Saul, J. (2014). The comeback (p. 260). Canada: Viking.

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