A view of the Tla'amin Nation's fish traps, located on the Sunshine Coast. (The Tla'amin Nation)

Learning

Pi Day: How Indigenous stone-fish traps contribute to mathematical education

March 12, 2021
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By Clarissa Yap

Math enthusiasts around the world celebrate their field on March 14 – a day symbolically linked to the mathematical constant known as Pi, often approximated by 3.14. SFU teaching professor Veselin Jungic has spent the past decade growing enthusiasm for math with a unique program connecting mathematical concepts with Indigenous storytelling, history and tradition. 

Jungic runs SFU’s Math Catcher Outreach Program, an outreach initiative that aims to help youth improve their math skills for the overall enjoyment of mathematics. Jungic, whose program closely collaborates with the Tla’amin Nation, located on the Sunshine Coast north of Powell River, has published his collection of Small Number stories, a series of 13 animated films, available in English, French and some Indigenous languages. 

Jungic’s latest project involves the mathematical and computer modelling of traditional stone-fish traps, a customary way of harvesting fish that Indigenous people use across the Pacific North-West region. This initiative is a continuation of a previous collaboration with the Tla’amin Nation and members of the SFU community, including professor Cedric Chauve and alumnus Laura Gutierrez Funderburk, in which designs were woven into cedar baskets to create geometric patterns. 

The computer modelling of the stone-fish traps constructs a way in which students can learn about how the traps are set through steps of mathematical thinking and optimizing available resources.

“This free online learning resource is available to students, with a purpose to communicate cultural, engineering, environmental and mathematical ideas at the high school level on a global scale,” says Jungic, recognized in 2015 as a 3M National Teaching Fellow. “The [model of the stone-fish traps] displays the tidal changes, fish flow, and different shapes of the stone traps to allow for an easy change of their sizes and positions.”

This learning resource will be part of the national Callysto program, an online educational tool that helps students in elementary and high school learn about and apply data science skills. 

This initiative is supported by SFU, the Tla’amin NationPacific Institute for Mathematical Sciences and the Callysto Program

Event:

An event hosted by Callysto in partnership with the Tla'amin Nation is happening on Tuesday, March 30. This event will consist of a panel discussion including SFU professor Veselin Jungic and will focus on exploring Indigenous culture through mathematics and interactive computing. The event will explore two traditions: basket weaving and fish harvesting in the Coast Salish Nations. 

What: Callysto pandel discussion: Explore Indigenous Culture through Math and Code

When: March 30, 2021, 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM PDT

Register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/callysto-panel-discussion-explore-indigenous-culture-through-math-and-code-tickets-142023775937 

Learn more

Learn more about the Callysto program and the stone-fish traps here

For more information about Veselin Jungic and his Small Number stories, visit http://www.sfu.ca/~vjungic/Small-Number/book-1.html