media release

Helping Aboriginals climb learning ladder of math and science

October 28, 2011
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Contact:
Veselin Jungic, 778.822.3340 (cell), vjungic@irmacs.ca (Burnaby resident)
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035, cthorbes@sfu.ca


For the second consecutive year, British Columbian educators are meeting at Simon Fraser University to deepen their commitment to helping Aboriginal students attain a post-secondary education in math and science.

They will gather at Aboriginal Students in Math and Science: Situations and Solutions—a one-day workshop, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at IRMACS Presentation Studio, ASB 10900.

“In these annual workshops we can’t solve the increasing problem of Aboriginal people not getting a post secondary education and not participating in math and science classes,” says Veselin Jungic. The workshop co-founder is an SFU senior lecturer and adjunct professor of math. “But we can help educators at different stages of newsnewmnethe education process connect directly and discuss potential solutions.”

The SFU Office of Aboriginal Peoples (OAP), the Interdisciplinary Research in the Mathematical and Computational Sciences (IRMACS) Centre and the Pacific Institute for Mathematical Sciences (PIMS) host this workshop.

Teachers, educational promoters and administrators from tribal, independent and public schools at all levels of the education system — elementary to post-secondary —share experiences and ideas about math and science education for Aboriginal people.

This year, math and science educators from Aboriginal communities will participate in a panel discussion about why Aboriginal students aren’t completing Grade 12 math.

In a second panel discussion, educators will discuss how they are trying to support Aboriginals’ learning in disciplines, such as math and science, in which they are severely under-represented at the post-secondary level.

Among the institutions and groups participating in the workshop are: SFU, the University of British Columbia, the First Nations Schools Association, the National Educational College and Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

“What unites this diverse group of people is their passion for teaching and their awareness that something must be done to improve the state of numeracy among our young Aboriginal population,” says Jungic.

SFU OAP director William Lindsay adds: “I envision this year’s workshop taking our discussion one step further. We’ll be discussing ways to specifically tackle prevailing problems, such as the need for more curriculum resources with Aboriginal content.”

A new animated math video for Aboriginals —  Small Number and the Old Canoe — will be screened at this event.  It is one of a series of videos produced by Jungic, who, along with several other collaborators, is creating them to spark Aboriginal elementary-school kids’ interest in math and science. 

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Backgrounder: Helping Aboriginals climb learning ladder

According to the Assembly of First Nations, only 27 per cent of Canada’s status Indian population holds a post secondary certificate, diploma or degree compared to 46 per cent of the rest of the Canadian population.

While 10 per cent of non-indigenous people in Canada do not finish high school, the drop out rate among on-reserve Aboriginal Peoples is 70 per cent.

During this one-day workshop Judy Smith, program director of the SFU Community Education Program, an outreach initiative, will unveil a new course about to be piloted in four remote Aboriginal communities.

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