Math is Child’s Play

Q: At the beginning of the reading, Leroy Little Bear (2000) states that colonialism “tries to maintain a singular social order by means of force and law, suppressing the diversity of human worldviews. … Typically, this proposition creates oppression and discrimination” (p. 77). Think back on your experiences of the teaching and learning of mathematics — were there aspects of it that were oppressive and/or discriminating for you or other students?

Mathematics was always the easiest subject for me.  I learned to count at the age of three, and when I started doing math in school, it came easily to me.  Since I do not see math as oppressive to myself, it was likely I was in a position of privilege.  If I were to say what that privilege was, I would simply guess that I was good at paying attention.  (A not so true statement anymore).  Looking back, I would also say that a lot of the math we did was not actually math.  Or rather, it was only a small portion of math.  Knowing how to add and subtract are both incredibly valuable skills, but as Gale mentioned in her lecture, math is about a lot more than just the basic operations.

The way math was taught to me required a lot of focus.  Students were to sit in their desks, not speaking, and paying attention to what was done on the board.  Thus, some students, such as myself, had an advantage because this was a skill I had developed before going into elementary school.  Some students, who were not quite as lucky to develop said skills, were told they could not do math, even though these skills and math have very little in common.

When it comes to teaching math, I have not yet had the opportunity to, save for a few times tutoring my sisters.  In that time, I have found that I almost always have to teach the same way the teacher does because the teacher expected something similar.  I could not give them strategies to use in their work, or convince them they could solve the problems they had in another way.  They had to do what the teacher said, and that was final.  When I finally get to teach math, I do not want my students to feel like there is only one way.  I want them to be creative, to come up with solutions even I may not have thought of.  And I find that is how they will grow as mathematical beings.  They will learn to do things on their own, in a way they understand, and not in a way that is forced upon them.  Some may come upon the traditionally learned methods and find they suit their needs.  Others might need something different to understand.  I aim to allow all of my students to grow mathematically in their own ways, and not in a set way that is determined by me.

After reading Poirier’s article: Teaching mathematics and the Inuit Community, identify at least three ways in which Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric ideas about the purposes mathematics and the way we learn it.


  1.  Language.  The Inuit students were doing poorly in Mathematics because it was being taught in a language unfamiliar to their own.  Which makes sense.  I am good at math in French or English, but if I tried doing math in Cree, I would fail miserably.
  2. Culture.  Mathematics, or the math one needs to learn, varies a lot from culture to culture.  For Inuits, the only time math was done was in an igloo.  They counted on their fingers and toes, and they did not really apply it to much outside because it was so cold.  In schools, math is typically shown as an essential skill and the base of all knowledge.  To get anywhere in life, you need to know math.
  3. Teaching methods.  Inuit peoples do not traditionally learn the same way they are being taught right now.  They are used to listening to elders, or solving enigmas, neither of which is present in the current curriculum.  As such, the way they are learning is catering to the teacher, not the students.  That is to say, the teachers up North expect students to learn the way they teach, which is a questionable approach.

One Story to Rule Them All

In  my own schooling, the single stories that were presented most were from a white settler narrative.  It was their view of things that was taught, such as the portrayal of First Nations’ peoples as being savage or primitive, or how their problems on reserves stem entirely from their own mismanagement.  I know that much of what I learned about indigenous peoples has since been proven false, or just a small sample of the truth.  Also, it is often left out that the indigenous peoples of Canada are the main reason European settlers were able to survive the drastically different climate than what they were used to.  It is safe for me to say that the only truth that mattered before I got to University was the truth of white settlers.

My upbringing was quite detrimental to how I read the world now.  I had to do a lot of uncomfortable unlearning, and I still have much of it to do.  I learned through a very Western lens.  The scientific method was the only way of proving anything, and calculations all had to be done the right way, even if other ways could bring you to the same answer.  As such, the main biases I bring to the classroom are towards the ways of knowing.  It is not easy for me to teach different ways of knowing, or come up with lesson plans that incorporate more than just Western ways of knowing.  I was always taught that if it was not European, it was wrong.  Maybe not in those words, but I have come to realize that was essentially what I was taught.  Now, I firmly believe that all forms of knowing have some merit to them.  No way of knowing is inherently better, as they all have different strengths and weaknesses.

Another bias I tend to have is the idea of knowledge as currency.  I tend to believe the more you know, the further you will go in life.  And the more money you will make.  I have since learned that knowledge is completely subjective.  In China, what they learn is entirely different than from I learn.  They may not have any reason to know what to do when you cross a buffalo, just like I will never need to know some of the things they learn.  And just because I do not know what they know, it does not make me any worse off in the end.  The knowledge is just simply unnecessary for me.  This form of thinking allowed for me to realize that maybe not every student needs to know how to calculate the velocity of a rocket, or how to draw a circle.  Every student is different, and the bias that every student needs to be taught the same, the form of teaching I was shown in schools, needs to be unlearned, or adapted.  Every student should be catered too, and their interests should drive their education, not trivial knowledge that they may never use in their life.

To unlearn these biases, it is just a matter of constantly working against them.  Doing what is easy is not necessarily what is right, or good.  Some students may prefer learning the same thing as their peers, but others may suffer drastically from it.  Every single student deserves a chance at having a fulfilling life, and as teachers, it will be my job to guide them while they explore their interests.

Citizenship Education

When I think back to my pre-University years, I can think of a few instances when citizenship education was taught in the classroom, whether implicitly or explicitly.  The most obvious one would be to follow the rules.  This would make students fall under the category of personally responsible citizens.  However, we also got make the rules.  At the start of each school year, most teachers would sit down with us, and we would discuss the rules we thought were most important.  These often included being respectful towards others, and raising your hand to ask questions.  This process can be seen as forming participatory citizens.

Another important example would be fundraisers.  Usually, the funds were raised towards a class trip, or certain supplies.  Participating in one of these demonstrated another way of forming a personally responsible citizen.  If you the students organized and planned all of it, they could be see as participatory citizens as well.

More, the election process.  In grade 8, and high school, we had to elect different students to be part of the student council.  This example taught students how to vote, leading them on their way to becoming personally responsible citizens, but once again, the ones who ran would be participatory citizens.

An example of outright education would be when members of the legislative assemble came to our school to talk about their party platforms.  They informed us, the future voters, in order for us to become more aware of the issues, and to allow us to vote for the party that best represents our values in the future.

It is clear that the curriculum often left out the idea of the justice oriented citizen.  Very few of my experiences in elementary and high school involved questioning the base roots of problems.  We had many experiences where we got to participate in order to help different groups, or we got to organize events to help them, but I do not recall any instance when we were taught to question the underlying reasons for the poverty or lack of food.  Simply that it was our duty to help.  This helped promote the idea of the white saviour.  We were shown that it was our duty to help groups that were in need, typically minority groups.



It is deeply concerning that a Coop teacher does not think Treaty Education is necessary because there are no First Nations’ students at the school.  Treaties are not signed by one group of people.  They are agreements between two or more parties, in the case of the numbered treaties, they are an agreement between Canada and First Nations’ peoples.  As such, there is always a reason to teach Treaty Ed even if there are no Cree, Saulteaux, Lakota, Dakota, Nakota, or Métis people in a school.  They benefit just as much because they learn important things such as what a treaty is, and what specific agreement was made between our ancestors and the First Nations’ peoples in order to share the land.  It also opens eyes as to how treaties were broken, or how they were disregarded by the side of white settlers.

With that being said, We are all Treaty people.  We are all living on land that was agreed to be shared.  Whether your ancestors were signatories or not, Regina is treaty 4 land, meaning it was agreed that Canadians and First Nations’ peoples on the land would share it.  It is important for all people to know how these agreements were broken or disregarded.  How despite the treaties, white settlers ended up taking up more and more of the land, all the while confining indigenous peoples on to reserves.  This helps me see how schools teach a very white curriculum.  The knowledge is white, and it often disregards First Nations’ culture, and if it does mention it, it tends to skip around the topic of colonization.  Because we are all treaty people, we should be looking for a more representative curriculum based off of whose knowledge comes from the land we share.   The knowledge taught to all students should resonate the agreements of our ancestors, not silence them.


After reading this article, I have found that reinhabitation and decolonization go hand in hand.  When colonization  began, First Nations’ peoples’ started using less and less of the land, and became restricted to small areas.  Over time, they became less and less attached to the land as the article points out.  Even over just two generations, the difference in how the land is viewed was massive.  If it was colonization that caused this, than decolonization will have to involve returning to the land, or reinhabiting it.

Through the article, this is done in a number of ways.  The most evident is during the canoe trip.  This canoe trip led to discussions about how the river is vital to everyday life.  Also, it opened up the door for inter-generational discussions.  These are the primary way that wisdom is passed down.  Elders or the older generations will tell their stories to the younger generation.  This is evident when elders shared key points along the river, and shared knowledge pertaining to how to live off the land.  This brought many people together.

When thinking about how to integrate these ideas in my classroom, I think about the importance of students becoming acquainted with the land.  Nature walks would be  a great idea, especially at different times of the year here in Saskatchewan.  I think questioning the historical implications of the land is an excellent subject.  Or even what students know about the land.  Perhaps there is even a possibility to have an elder, or some elders, come and lead the walks, telling their stories.  I definitely think it would be interesting to know and show how First peoples lived on the land before colonization.  It would develop almost a timeless bond between generations.  And for students to hear the stories, and picture their meaning would create a much stronger link to the subject matter than simply reading about it, as I just did!

Curricular Development

My original thoughts on curricular were pretty straightforward: the government takes full responsibility in planning a school curriculum.  However, after reading Levin‘s article, I find myself more aware of exactly what goes on behind the scenes and just how complicated planning a curriculum can be.

My original thoughts were not specifically wrong: governments do in fact have a lot of say as to what goes into a curriculum.  However, they are by no means the only actors in curriculum creation.  As the article points out, business, as well as parents play an important role in planning a curriculum as well.  It makes no sense to teach a generation of students how to do something that will not serve them, and the best judges of how much something will serve them are the voices within the community.  The businesses, or the future employers, of said students, but all the parents of said students.  It is hard to rationalize sending your child to a school if you think they will not be learning anything that you deem beneficial.  Overall, reading this article made me significantly more aware of how complex curriculum really is, and that no one person has an absolute say in what children should be taught.  It is the culmination of a variety of beliefs and values, put into one document that guides teachers on how their quest to teach their students.

This article does worry me slightly, simply because it does not touch much on the hidden curriculum, or any curriculum outside of the formal.  I feel that the hidden curriculum is just as important, if not more important than the formal curriculum.  For instance, take the Dick and Jane readers.  These books demonstrate the ideal family.  They encourage socially acceptable ways of life, and depict a perfect middle class white family.  These books were required readings for a very long time, and despite not being openly visible on the surface, the hidden curriculum is significant.  These books teach students that the ideal family is a white and middle class, with a working father and a stay-at-home mother.  This enforces an ideology, all the while having the guise of educating youth on how to read.  (Further proving that everything you teach cannot be neutral.)

Another point that bothered me deeply is just how much Levin emphasized the need for politics.  I do not disagree that governing systems are necessary in society, but how much do you really need government in education?  In the States, at the time I am writing this, the future secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, has almost no experience with teaching in schools.  She was never an educator, and her post-secondary involved business school.  Is this really the type of politician that should be allowed to decide, or to even influence what is taught in schools?  How often do the people who hold these positions of power over the curriculum have no background in education?  It feels far more like politics in Education can easily go down the road of enforcing values that may not reflect the beliefs of the teacher(s) that has to teach the curriculum.  I mean, just because someone donates a lot of money to a particular institution, does it qualify them to have a say in what goes on within said institution?  Can I be qualified to perform brain surgery just by donating to said cause?  Or is it simply restricted to education, where people can become politicians that influence the curriculum, or really the educators of the educators, simply because they have enough money to be allowed to give their two cents?

Commonsense and privilege

When thinking about how a classroom is run, and what commonsense may be, there is a clear cut winner for which students are going to be better.  The commonsense of schools seems to lean towards students who attentive, and compliant.  That means the students that will do what is asked of them, when it is asked of them, and do nothing but pay attention to the teacher at the front of the class.  The ideal student would come to school everyday, well dressed and groomed, and would be willing to sit at their desk and attentively absorb the knowledge that the teacher is transmitting.  These students also tend to be on time.  The idea of a good student is quite specific.  And only certain values work with education.

Schools were originally designed around Anglo Saxons.  They were the original target audience, and so it makes sense that the idea of commonsense in the classroom heavily privileges white middle-class students.  These are the students for whom the system was designed, and it stands to reason that they will be the ones that most strongly benefit from it.  One could also argue that males have an innate advantage over females.  It has long been thought, and debunked, that males are better at Math and Science than females, as such teachers tend to focus resources on them.  The material is also heavily in favour of the students of European descent.  We learn mainly about their narrative, and we learn it in a very European way of knowing.

Many times, these ideas of commonsense render us blind to problems of equality.  We begin to believe that knowledge is neutral, and that schools in general are neutral.  We do not acknowledge other ways of knowing, as such, when a student who does fit perfectly within the confines of a “good” student, they are often seen as deficient.  First Nations’ students, whose culture has significantly different ways of knowing and learning, are severely disadvantaged by the systems in place.  The material presented is often in contrary to their own narratives, such as the history of Canada, and it tends not to interest them because of that.  It leads to many dropouts, which most people I have spoken to in the past attribute to their lack of a capacity to learn.  That last sentence is usually started off with, “I’m not racist, but…”.  And, it is unfortunate.  Education has become a necessity of our time, and schools that should be helping all students unfortunately only cater to a very specific demographic.


Aristotle’s Wisdom

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” -Aristotle

This quote has always meant quite a bit to me.  I am a firm believer in taking everything with a grain of salt.  I have an impossible time hearing something I am not sure is true, and not finding credible sources that either back up the statement, or prove it false.

This particular quote speaks to that idea.  For students, the main goal is to question your teacher, and don’t accept everything they say just because they are your teacher.  It also allows for teachers to question the material.  Teachers need to be able to understand ways of thinking, whether they agree with it or not.  It is infinitely easier to teach a student if you cater to their way of thinking instead of forcing your own way on them.  It also contributes to having an open mind.  It is necessary to understand why certain people might act in a certain way, although you may not condone it.  It is important to build understanding of views other than your own in order to understand the world.  It is also an incredibly useful skill in debates.  To be able to understand the other sides’ arguments so well that you can anticipate them and counter them.
A good way of practicing the idea presented in the quote would in fact be through a debate.  Give the students a topic and have them choose a side.  And then ask them to argue for the side that they did not choose, making them have to formulate arguments for the other side, and thus understanding it.

Tyler Rationale in my Schooling

Looking back at pre-university level classes, it was never a massive thought on my mind of why teachers teach the way they do.  Most of the time, teachers would sit at the front of the class, give a lecture, and then hand out worksheets/assign different problems from a textbook.  Ultimately, this would lead up to a unit exam, or the material would be on a mid-term or final.  This was not the only method, but it did seem to be the most common.  It also never occurred to me how they knew what to teach, or rather, I couldn’t be bothered to learn.  The answers to both these questions can be found within the Tyler Rationale.  In my schooling, more than once a teacher brought out a giant binder, and explained to the class that this is what they needed to teach us by the end of the school year.  These binders, not only answer my question, but also Tyler’s first question of “What educational purposes should the school seek to attain?”  These binders likely contained the curriculum information that the teachers needed to follow in order to “shape”, or prepare, students for the next grade level of material, with the end goal being shaping the desired adult as Schiro states on page 57 in his article.  The 2nd and 3rd questions are answered in the method I often encountered above, that is to say that the educational purposes that can be provided often fall in the form of standing at the front of the class lecturing 30 sets of ears on the material and expecting them to learn, and the general structure found of lecture to work to exam.  Finally, the use of an exam answers Tyler’s final point.

This method, although seemingly abundant, is far from perfect.  In fact, it limits both teachers and students alike in a number of ways.  First of all, teachers cannot possibly find time for one on one time with students.  This method relies heavily on the majority of the class understanding what you are teaching, and only having to re-explain to a few students who may have been absent or just simply don’t understand.  This method can also be seen as non-inclusive.  It seems a little odd to say that a method that involves lecturing the whole class can be non-inclusive, but at the same time it is very true.  Not all students participate in class lectures.  Some may be anxious, others uninterested, and a select few may just not understand.  This method is likely not worldwide either, which means that students from around the world that migrate to Canada may find this method difficult, or even unbearable.  This method also seems to increase the number of students showing difficulties.  The number of students needing additional resources in order for them to understand.

The Tyler Rationale is not all bad.  It does allow for teaching many students at once, which is becoming more and more of a necessity when classrooms seem to be growing from year to year.  It also opens the door for different methods of teaching.  Sometimes, it might be easier to lecture the entire class, and then ask the students to perform group work, getting those that understood to help those that did not. The Tyler rationale can also be of great use to teachers.  It gives them a formula to follow, which can be plugged into nearly every teaching situation, and ultimately produce desirable results.