Indigenous Inquiries in the Teaching and Learning of Secondary Mathematics

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Sean Chorney, Faculty of Education

Project team: Sandy Bakos, research assistant

Timeframe: January 2017 to March 2018

Funding: $6000

Course addressed: EDUC 415 – Designs for Learning: Secondary Mathematics

Final report: View Sean Chorney's final report (PDF)

Description: Mathematics, the discipline of objectivity and abstraction, is often seen as a field that does not align with an indigenous approach to learning. Objectivity and abstraction imply a distancing from context, a removal of human agency, a linear approach to understanding while indigenous approaches embrace personal connections, affective/emotional learning, and holistic perspectives that draw from varying levels of complexity. Consequently, it is not surprising that both pre-service and practicing teachers have expressed anxiety in response to the newly revised curriculum in British Columbia which states that mathematics teachers are to ‘[i]ncorporate First Peoples worldviews and perspectives to make connections to mathematical concepts’.

My intention for this study is to draw attention to indigenous perspectives in the teaching of Education 415: Designs for learning: Secondary mathematics of which I will be the instructor. EDUC 415 has approximately 30 students each year and meets in the summer semester. The main objective of EDUC 415 is to prepare students (pre-service teachers) to learn how to engage their own (future) students in the learning of mathematics. One specific objective is to understand the implementation of the curriculum and to create ways in which to best implement its goals and objectives.

My goals for this study are two-fold. By integrating indigenous approaches into the study of mathematics teaching, I am addressing both an alternative meaning of mathematics as well as attending to aboriginal culture. Consequently, I hope to elicit a sensibility of respect and reconciliation towards indigenous people. I also intend to address mathematics and draw on some important considerations not typically affiliated with mathematics such as locally-based understanding, verb-based concepts, and personal connections.

Questions addressed:

  • Are there changes in students' perceptions of the nature of mathematics?
  • Are there changes in students' perspectives and understandings of indigenous ways of knowing and learning as they relate to mathematics?
  • Does students’ confidence regarding meeting the TRB mandates related to indigenous education improve by the end of the course?

Knowledge sharing: My purpose in this undertaking is to learn about student understanding about indigeneity in mathematics as well as to share my research and results with others. I was originally motivated to help pre-service teachers learn and grow in indigenous education so I will continue to do this through both presentations and informal conversations, but there is also a need to understand this kind of study by numerous stakeholders. I will share at the British Columbia Association of Mathematics Teachers (BCAMT) of which I am on the executive: a publication from the BCAMT may result (I am the editor of the provincial mathematics teachers journal: Vector).  I will also write a journal paper based on my study. Finally, I will present my finding at the 2018 PME-NA conference. My paper will be in its conference proceedings.

Chorney, S., & Bakos, S. (2018). Indigenizing the Mathematics Curriculum with Pre-Service Teachers. In T.E. Hodges, G. J. Roy, & A. M. Tyminski, (Eds.), Proceedings of the 40th Conference of the North American Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (PMENA) (pp. 727-730). Greenville, SC: University of South Carolina & Clemson University.

Keywords: Aboriginal, mathematics, PDP, tconceptions of mathematics, Indigenous ways of knowing, positioning theory, mathematics, pre-service teacher education