About the Math Catcher Outreach Program
The Math Catcher program is a science outreach initiative at Simon Fraser University run by SFU faculty and staff members and students who volunteer their time towards the program.
The Math Catcher program aims to tackle the stigma surrounding mathematics among Indigenous and non-Indgenous youth through a series of initiatives. These include school visits, workshops, academic summer camps, tutoring programs, and creation of learning resources in various First Nation languages. The aims of the program are straightforward: to demonstrate that mathematics is part of everyday life and consistent with Indigenous culture; to prove that mathematics can be interesting and even fun; and to emphasize that mathematics can lead to a rewarding future.
Introducing Math and Science to Aboriginal Students
Math Catcher introduces mathematics and science to Aboriginal students through the use of First Nations imagery and storytelling. Match Catcher has produced animated films in several First Nations languages (Blackfoot, Cree, Squamish, Heiltsuk, Nisga’a, Sliammon, Halq’em ́eylem, Hul’q’umi’num’, and Huu-ay- aht) as well as bilingual picture books in Blackfoot/English, Cree/English, Squamish/English, Nisga’a/English, and Sliammon/English.
The Program is based on the belief that it is crucial that we engage Aboriginal students in mathematics and science at the early age.
How it all began...
In the Spring of 2011, NSERC awarded a PromoScience grant to the project Math Catcher: Mathematics Through Aboriginal Storytelling. The project was also sponsored by the Pacific Institute for Mathematical Sciences, the Faculty of Science, the Department of Mathematics and the IRMACS Centre from Simon Fraser University, and the Department of Mathematics from the University of British Columbia.
The project is an outcome of the BIRS supported First Nations Math Education Workshop which was held in Banff, Alberta, in November 2009. As it is stated in the Workshop’s Final Report:
[T]he workshop was based on the assumption that First Nations/Aboriginal student participation and success in school math programs is limited. (...) Presently only 2% of BC’s Aboriginal population completes Principles of Mathematics 12 compared to a completion rate of 25% for the whole BC population. This discrepancy in completion rate is one of the issues this group wanted to address given that successful completion of Principles of Mathematics 12 is a compulsory entrance prerequisite for many post- secondary programs in British Columbia, and the statistics are similar in the other provinces.
Math Catchers was particularly inspired by the following two conclusions identified by Workshop participants as strategies for overcoming challenges in teaching mathematics to Aboriginal youth:
- Teach math in the cultural context of the students
- Teach basic skills and problem-solving early.
During the workshop, Veselin Jungic and Mark MacLean co-wrote a story, Small Number Counts to 100, which served as the cornerstone of the grant proposal.
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