Small Number: Adventures in Languages

August 28, 2019

Summit 2019: Educational Impacts In the North – Building Towards Inclusivity, Ways of Knowing, and Internationalization in Education

University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, BC


Session B3: Veselin Jungic & Betty Wilson

Small Number: Adventures in Languages

The Math Catcher Outreach Program project includes a series of animated films that introduce math topics through stories that follow Indigenous storytelling formats and contain elements of Indigenous traditions and cultures. The stories are set in various Indigenous communities, and yet Small Number, the clever, playful hero of the series remains the same. The animations have English and Indigenous versions in nine languages: Blackfoot, Cree, Halq'eméylem, Hul'q'umi'num', Heltsuk, Huu-ay-aht, Tla’amin, Squamish, and Nisga'a. Some of these languages are endangered and an important – if initially originally unintended – contribution of the program has been to contribute to the digital recording of Indigenous languages. On the program website, each video is accompanied with a bilingual transcript ofthe story. In this presentation, we will describe our collaboration with Indigenous language communities creating video narrations. We will address the main challenges that our narrators have faced: to re-tell in their language a story created in English and built around a certain mathematical problem. Through a discussion of the creation of Tla’amin narrations of Small Number’s adventures, we will demonstrate that meeting this challenge brings together endangered language speakers communities, from old to young. For example, the creation of the Tla’amin narration of one of the Small Number stories was a joint project among a group of Tla’amin elders. The recording of the story included a group of elementary school students. As part of our discussion of the Tla’amin experience, we will provide examples of situations in which not only the narrators’ knowledge of the language but also their creativity was needed to communicate mathematical ideas and maintain the traditional spirit of the language. The presentation will be in English with occasional use of the Tla’amin language. A short animated film in the Tla’amin language will be shown.