1. 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?
2. 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. I never knew there was a different way that Inuit, or other Indigenous groups, learned/used mathematics, so that is an oppressive and discriminatory experience of the teaching of mathematics that the curriculum makers and my past teachers are responsible for. My mathematics classes were only based on the Western view; linear, singular, static, objective, rational, knowledge for the sake of knowledge, written (Little Bear, 2000). This illustrated colonialism in a hidden way, from my perspective. I only realize during Gale Russel’s presentation that curriculum could be in the form of numeracy. I guess I thought "how can numbers be bias or reinforce colonialism", it didn’t seem to fit. Students that viewed math differently than the Western way, for example, refugees or Indigenous peoples, had no other option but to learn math the way Westerners learn math. It’s this way or no way, that’s how I felt my mathematics schooling experience was like, I needed to follow a step by step procedure to get the correct answer. The objectiveness in my past Western mathematics experience “concerns itself with quantity not quality” (Little Bear, 2000, p. 5). In addition, if a student didn’t use the learned procedure, it was a negative thing, whereas, “in Aboriginal societies, diversity is the norm” (Little Bear, 2000, p. 6).
2. Inuit mathematics uses oral representations, not numerals. This illustrates the importance of oral traditions in their culture and passing down knowledge orally. Eurocentric mathematics use numerals more than oral representations, if any. This shows the contrasting Inuit and Eurocentric ideas about the way to learn mathematics. Because of the oral representations of numbers in Inuit mathematics, each number has different forms according to the context, whereas, in Eurocentric mathematics 2 + 2 always equals 4.
Eurocentric ways view mathematics as “something that can help [us] solve everyday problems” (p. 55), whereas, Inuit peoples ideas disagree. Inuit peoples use math at an early age to learn counting and patterns, such as cosmic cycles of the year (seasons, eclipses, phases of the moon). This is a different way that Euro-Western peoples use mathematics. For example, I use math in the grocery store, to calculate the right amount on my pay check and to set the dinner table when there’s company. These examples are Eurocentric ideas about the purpose of mathematics in everyday life. Inuit mathematics could be useful in teaching kids mathematics because many students struggle with learning Eurocentric mathematics, including myself.
Inuit do not use “paper-and-pencil exercises … [and instead] are based on the ‘natural’ ways of learning” (Poirier, 2007, p. 5). This illustrates that the purpose of mathematics is to have a relationship with the environment and to gain knowledge from animate objects used in Inuit mathematics, because everything in the universe has knowledge. This reflects Inuit worldviews, social constructions and values in their community.
Bear, L. L. (2000). Jagged worldviews colliding. In M. Batiste (Ed.), Reclaiming Indigenous voice and vision (pp. 77-85). UBC Press. Retrieved from
Poirier, L. (2007). Teaching mathematics and the Inuit community. In Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, 7(1), p. 53-67. Retrieved from