Teaching Math for FNMI Students

 

The dominant ways in which math has always been taught in our Western society includes drill, rote learning, and a focus on math ‘authorities’ including the teacher.

This poses very serious problems for many of our mathematical learners, particularly for our First Nations, Metis & Inuit (FNMI) learners, whose perspectives and ways of knowing may not be included in the traditional curricular frameworks. Therefore, we are faced with very serious issues when it comes to considering who gets to learn math, and who will be included.

Math that is inclusive of different cultures and ways of knowing the world, is built on the awareness that math itself is about knowing the world. It is my view that we as teachers can do many wonderful things in the classroom to integrate basic skills with constructivist and culturally responsive ways of teaching math that will support multiple ways of knowing – particularly for students who are FNMI.

How do we use strategies and approaches that both facilitate learning in math, AND infuse FNMI ways of knowing? We start by recognizing the importance of connections, communication and contextualization of the learning of FNMI students.

What strategies help to infuse FNMI ways of knowing, perspectives and content?

Strategies

The following strategies can be designed to infuse FNMI ways of knowing, perspectives and content into the Math Curriuclum.

First, recognize that students learn by attaching meaning to what they do. Students need to construct their own meaning of mathematics.

2. Integrate Inquiry Based Learning into math. Check out the following website from OISE on Inquiry in Math. 

3. Provide holistic learning experiences that include cultural and social interactions through dialogue, language and negotiations of meaning.  This would include allowing other students, community leaders, Elders, Senators and other diverse resources to teach, facilitate, share and learn in our classroom.

4. It is impossible to isolate math from culture. It is important to strive to help change mindsets about what ‘real’ math is. Ask ourselves questions including is math about making financial transactions? Is it about complex beading, knitting, or making intricate porcupine quill boxes? Are our cultural routines linked to math? Become aware of how math is linked with culture.

5. Aim to create equal opportunities for Math learning for Aboriginal students. However, exercising caution not to merely integrate holidays, artifacts, stories and more merely as a form of ‘tokenism’. Also, exercising caution not to make FNMI students solely responsible for adding culture and learning to the math classroom.

6. Engage in Culturally Responsive Teaching of mathematics. When we don’t include culture in math, we are essentially positioning people ‘outside’ of math. Serious implications thus arise as FNMI students are at a greater risk of being forced into negative math mindsets and math deficiencies. Culturally responsive teaching is about understanding surrounding communities, and making the program ‘Student-Centered’.

7. Step outside of traditional curriculum frameworks. Not Big ideas and high expectations, but the pedagogical frameworks. When we try to add culture, content, perspectives and ideas to math, we can change the traditional curriculum frameworks. Mathematical learning that incorporates FNMI perspectives, content and ways of knowing, should not be an add-on. We need to make sure that we change our traditional frameworks lest we inadvertently continue to promote the ‘othering’ and exclusion from math.

Math is about knowing the world around us. FNMI students deserve to be included in our curriculum. How will you strive to equally include FNMI students in your curriculum?

 

Deborah McCallum

2016

 

Teaching Math for FNMI Students

 

The dominant ways in which math has always been taught in our Western society includes drill, rote learning, and a focus on math ‘authorities’ including the teacher.

This poses very serious problems for many of our mathematical learners, particularly for our First Nations, Metis & Inuit (FNMI) learners, whose perspectives and ways of knowing may not be included in the traditional curricular frameworks. Therefore, we are faced with very serious issues when it comes to considering who gets to learn math, and who will be included.

Math that is inclusive of different cultures and ways of knowing the world, is built on the awareness that math itself is about knowing the world. It is my view that we as teachers can do many wonderful things in the classroom to integrate basic skills with constructivist and culturally responsive ways of teaching math that will support multiple ways of knowing – particularly for students who are FNMI.

How do we use strategies and approaches that both facilitate learning in math, AND infuse FNMI ways of knowing? We start by recognizing the importance of connections, communication and contextualization of the learning of FNMI students.

What strategies help to infuse FNMI ways of knowing, perspectives and content?

Strategies

The following strategies can be designed to infuse FNMI ways of knowing, perspectives and content into the Math Curriuclum.

First, recognize that students learn by attaching meaning to what they do. Students need to construct their own meaning of mathematics.

2. Integrate Inquiry Based Learning into math. Check out the following website from OISE on Inquiry in Math. 

3. Provide holistic learning experiences that include cultural and social interactions through dialogue, language and negotiations of meaning.  This would include allowing other students, community leaders, Elders, Senators and other diverse resources to teach, facilitate, share and learn in our classroom.

4. It is impossible to isolate math from culture. It is important to strive to help change mindsets about what ‘real’ math is. Ask ourselves questions including is math about making financial transactions? Is it about complex beading, knitting, or making intricate porcupine quill boxes? Are our cultural routines linked to math? Become aware of how math is linked with culture.

5. Aim to create equal opportunities for Math learning for Aboriginal students. However, exercising caution not to merely integrate holidays, artifacts, stories and more merely as a form of ‘tokenism’. Also, exercising caution not to make FNMI students solely responsible for adding culture and learning to the math classroom.

6. Engage in Culturally Responsive Teaching of mathematics. When we don’t include culture in math, we are essentially positioning people ‘outside’ of math. Serious implications thus arise as FNMI students are at a greater risk of being forced into negative math mindsets and math deficiencies. Culturally responsive teaching is about understanding surrounding communities, and making the program ‘Student-Centered’.

7. Step outside of traditional curriculum frameworks. Not Big ideas and high expectations, but the pedagogical frameworks. When we try to add culture, content, perspectives and ideas to math, we can change the traditional curriculum frameworks. Mathematical learning that incorporates FNMI perspectives, content and ways of knowing, should not be an add-on. We need to make sure that we change our traditional frameworks lest we inadvertently continue to promote the ‘othering’ and exclusion from math.

Math is about knowing the world around us. FNMI students deserve to be included in our curriculum. How will you strive to equally include FNMI students in your curriculum?

 

Deborah McCallum

2016

 

13 Strategies to Promote Equity and Diversity in the Classroom For First Nations, Metis & Inuit Students

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The FNMI populations across North America are incredibly diverse, both linguistically and culturally. With literally hundreds of different First Nations and Aboriginal populations, we are faced with many challenges with regards to how we can adequately preserve Indigenous knowledge and ways of living within Canada. Indigenous populations are also the fastest growing populations in Canada. We need to embed and integrate this knowledge throughout the curriculum, and not just as an add-on.

In our Western world, standardized, results-based practices, measurement, and same aged groupings learning the same thing at the same time prevails. This foundation continues to foster mistrust toward our education systems. What is needed are flexible and open ended curriculum expectations that lead students to deep learning and interconnected Indigenous knowledges.

We need to provide access to Indigenous values and knowledge that can be passed along to improve our Education Systems, FNMI peoples, the environment, and our economy.

After discussion with my husband, who is the FNMI Resource Teacher for our school board, and of First Nations descent, these are the tips we came up with for Educators to begin with:

13 Strategies to get Started Learning about your Local FNMI Communities:

  1. Start where you are at in terms of your own knowledge, then look toward your closest communities FNMI to learn more.
  2. Join in a cultural event
  3. Visit your local band office or Friendship Center to obtain information
  4. Ask to meet with a Traditional Teacher or Elder
  5. Do some reading.  Most communities have websites.
  6. Use 21st technologies to connect with other communities.
  7. Connect with other Education agencies that run through Band offices and Friendship Centres
  8. Read local news.  There may be many current issues involving local communities
  9. Use Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (Government of Canada) weblinks.
  10. Differentiate your classroom programming and curriculum based on the aspects and respect for the FN/Metis/Inuit territory that is closest to you
  11. Understand the needs of your Community.
  12. Strive to reach and engage the students from that community in meaningful ways.
  13. Do your own homework. What backgrounds and cultures exist in your classroom? Have any community strategies worked in the past, for example, cultural programming, building of community structures and other strategies to engage and motivate youth.

As Educators, we can start with the knowledge we already have, and the resources that are available to us. From there, we can continue to focus on the similarities that exist between Aboriginal cultures. Many of the similarities have arisen from the impacts of European views and colonialization over the past few hundred years. This has created shared histories for FNMI peoples, but unfortunately, has also undermined and left many diversities forgotten.

As Educators, this presents a very large difficult task in terms of not just meeting the expectations of the curriculum, but also respecting the diversity within each and every classroom.

Whether we consciously acknowledge this or not, one of the tasks of the Education system is to look toward ways of restoring and renewing Indigenous relationships in Education, and reconciling Indigenous and Western viewpoints within our Educational practices. Only then, can we improve the quality of life for all FNMI people, our environment, Country, and the future for everyone.

Education can offer great tools to help deepen knowledge and understanding, and reconciling differences between cultures.

According to Indigenous perspectives, communities and Elders, and family were always very important in transmitting knowledge. Learning always took place when the student was ready. Teachers brought in at the ‘right’ times.

I would state that this requires teachers to hone their instincts, and pay attention to aspects of the child that are not located on standardized tests, and look-fors on standardized teacher evaluations. It requires true listening skills, instinct, and qualities often overlooked and not indicated on standardized Teacher Evaluation forms.

This is the first in a series of posts that will explore how to effectively incorporate FNMI perspectives into the Curriculum.

Deborah & Ian McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Classroom Line Up: A First Nations Perspective

I recently broached the topic of the ‘Classroom Line-Up’ with my husband, who is of First Nations descent. I was interested in learning if First Nations communities may have different perspectives about the act of the classroom Line-Up.

I firmly believe that we as educators, all need to work to integrate First Nations, Metis, & Inuit strategies and perspectives into our classroom. We also need to understand the historical and present day influences of the Indian Act of 1876, and the Residential School System within Canada. I think that it is also interesting to understand the practices and mainstays within our school system, and the impact of other cultures viewing these practices in different ways.

So when I brought up the question of how would First Nations communities view  this concept of having students ‘Line up’ in the classroom, I learned something very important about his culture.

First Nations communities are just that, very community minded, and community based. You have heard the expression ‘It Takes a Village to Raise a Child’, and First Nations Communities are no exception. An inherent belief is often that children need to be explorative, without boundaries.

Where mainstream culture would place a lot of importance on having that straight line-up at the door, many Traditional teachers would allow students to explore, and choose how to walk from one point to another. This stems from a deeper belief that people need to find their own paths in life. You walk along those paths that are set out for you in life, and you never deviate too far from those paths. If you do deviate too far from your main path, this is when you will face the most problems.

This caused me to reflect on how we as educators can all work to help students find the best path for themselves, and to try different things out on their own, rather than having it dictated, lectured, or prescribed. It also made me reflect on how we as educators can make the Education system a safer place for not just students who are First Nations, Metis, or Inuit descent, but for everyone.

Creating real change in our Education System goes beyond implementing strategies such as restorative practice, talking circles and other holistic and culturally relevant teaching practices. It also extends to how we implement our everyday school rules, policies and procedures. We need to help empower all students to find their own paths in life.

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

First Nations, Metis, Inuit Stereotypes in our Media

 

 

Who’s voices matter in our Canadian Society? Who’s voices matter in education systems?

The image you have of First Nations, Metis, & Inuit peoples has been impacted by many forms of media, government, society. If you truly consider someone to be an equal, then you cannot think of them as inferior and yourself as superior, or vice versa. So therefore, to think negatively about FNMI people, is really to think of yourself as ‘better’. If we think ourselves better, then we are less likely to be open to hearing any voices other than our own. This has dire effects in education, and perhaps no other education system in Canada has demonstrated this as the Residential School systems. However, First Nations, Metis, Inuit student and family voices are still not being heard or treated equally within our classrooms, curriculum, and pedagogy.

Distorted stereotypes and images of all Aboriginal people are damaging to ALL people (Doxtator, 1992). Most FNMI stereotypes foster extreme forms of thinking including:

a)    FNMI culture asSavage’, wild and uncontrollable: where Aboriginal people have no self-control and are wild or brutal.

b)    FNMI culture as perfection: where we assume that FNMI people have the answers to everything;

c)   ‘Disney’-ifying views: where anything in costume is immediately ‘game’ for photographers. Therefore, ‘Indians’ in ‘costume’ are comparable to ‘Mickey Mouse’ at Disney, or one of ‘Santa’s Elves’, or another storybook character at the local mall, and

d)   Reverse stereotyping, when Aboriginal peoples use stereotypes against each other to deem who is more traditional and ‘real’, and who has sufficient ‘blood’ to be real enough to be considered ‘Indian’.

e) You do not ‘LOOK’ First Nations, Metis, or Inuit, therefore you are NOT! I do not have to include you in my curriculum or pedagogy. No ‘special treatment‘ for you.

There are many more that can be added to this list.

All forms of stereotypes are equally destructive.

Most of our generation has been raised with the story that Christopher Columbus ‘found’ North America in 1492, and that is when ‘civilization’ began. This ‘Story’ was never really about FNMI peoples, because in this ‘Story’, Aboriginal people were just ‘there’, but in negative ways. This ‘story’ still functions today. Especially to the extent that whenever our Country finds itself in competition with FNMI people over resources and land, the images portrayed by the media are always negative, and work to create feelings of hate and anger.

Our school systems suffer from these stereotypes. In the school system, from day one, children are organized and ranked in a hierarchy according to academic performance, athletic abilities, and creative skills. Standardization is still highly valued. FNMI stereotypes do not successfully ‘fit’ with these schemas. To be at the top of the hierarchy, means that someone always has to be at the bottom. Someone needs to be superior, and someone needs to be inferior. Someone’s voice matters more than another. This cannot foster equality.

Whether we are looking at the school system, or conflicts over land and resources, negative stereotypes are continually being perpetuated through our standardized school systems, and media portrayals, thus ignoring the fact that we are all just human beings who deserve to be equal.

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Reference:

Doxtator, Deborah (1992). Fluff and Feathers. Woodland Cultural Center; Brantford Ontario.