Does Math Make Sense?

Thinking back on my education of mathematics, it was a very positive experience all around. Since I can remember, I have always loved math and I think part of it was because I was able to understand it really easy. I could take the numbers and equations and work through them rather quickly. In elementary school I can remember the teacher following the Math Makes Sense textbook like it was the only thing that could teach us anything about math. For a long time, I honestly didn’t think any other textbook existed. Back then, I never thought anything about it but now I am realizing that those textbooks were potentially discriminating against or oppressive to my fellow students. With only learning from the same textbook for most of your life, you learn to solve problems the way that THEY want you too. Some teachers would even mark others differently depending on how you got the answer, rather than if it was correct or not. I myself have even struggled with  trying to change my ways of problem solving to fit what the textbook (and my teacher) wanted from me. This can be problematic because not everyone will understand the one method of solving a specific type of problem. Still up to this day, I have not learned anything about how math is taught and viewed through Indigenous perspectives and I know that I am really missing out. I hope that I can experience some of this teaching while at the university, as well as be able to transfer it to my future classroom. Being a math major, I think it would be beneficial to break this cycle and introduce new ways of teaching so that all y students can understand to the best of their ability. 

Within Poirier’s article about teaching mathematics within the Inuit community, challenges the way Eurocentric ways of viewing math. The first mentioned is learning math in their own language. This can be transferred into classrooms all around because math can be a very complex subject. If students don’t fully understand English or French (depending on where they are learning math) then it can make figuring out the problem 10 times harder. This will also help students stay in touch with their culture and who they are. If they are coming to school and are speaking English, but go home and speak a different language, it can be difficult to connect what you are learning and get help from parents if you don’t know how to translate the terms into their own language. Even some of my friends who are in French Immersion school, do not know how to do math in English because the terms and symbols are different. Another way that Inuit mathematics challenges the Eurocentric view of math is through seeing the purpose for math. Although I am a lover of math (most of the time), I often question when I am going to use the derivative to determine velocity, or when I am going to need to know the rate of change of a ladder sliding down a wall in the future. However, the Inuit community believes that math being taught should be transferable to everyday life needs. This would definitely help me as a future math teacher to explain to my students why what we are learning is important. Finally, another way that the Inuit teachers math that differs from the Eurocentric view is through the teaching styles. One style would be through oral learning. Oral learning is important to their community because most learning is done through storytelling and would be another close connection to their culture. 

Teaching Lenses and Single Stories

I grew up and went to school in Regina. First it was Grant Road School from kindergarten to grade 8 and then Campbell Collegiate from grade 9 to grade 12. Going to school in these places kept my views of the world pretty positive. I read the world as if everything was perfect and that there weren’t many struggles in the world, at least no where close to where I was. All the problems I knew of were either ancient history, or halfway across the globe. Growing up with this view of the world I was protected from what most would consider the “real world”. My upbringing as a child was also a very positive experience. My family was happy, healthy, and was able to provide for me and my siblings while living fairly comfortably. As an aspiring education student, I brought along with me some positive expectations of what teaching would be like, based on my school and home life experiences. Now, I am not naive enough to think everyone lived life like me, some would have it better and some would have it not as good, but I never really imagined myself in those classrooms where the majority of my students would have it not so good. This quickly changed however when I actually got into my education classes and I began to unlearn these ways of thinking and worked against these biases by constantly challenging my thinking and thoughts about being a future educator and what that might look like. 

When I think about single stories present in my own schooling, many of them benefitted the white students or white characters. This was especially common in elementary school when there were picture books everywhere! Even as I grew older and began to read short novels, I always imagined my characters to be white. This made it possible for me to dream and seek to be just like the characters in the books and stories I was reading because I could directly think and connect them to be just like me. Just now I am beginning to see stories with characters of different race and culture be the main character of novels and picture books for children. Single stories where also told in what we learned at school. Often, when we actually learned or talked about Treaty Education, we were told how “helpless” the Indigenous people of Canada were. This lead me to believe and paint all Indigenous people with the same brush, and at a young age, this was the single story I knew of them. As a grade four student, I was shocked to learn that my teacher was Metis because of the single story I had come to know. Single stories are dangerous, and limit people before they even have the chance to show how amazing, talented, hardworking, or intelligent they are. 

Treaty Education and Curriculum


According to the Levin article, school curricula is developed with two objectives in mind. These two objectives can be “very general or broad goals and then much more specific learning activities and objectives” (p. 14). This article provided me with the perspective and view that teachers are put under an overwhelming amount of pressure to not only teach what is outlined in the curriculum document, but are also saddled with trying to teach issues such as drug abuse and use, obesity and more. The article specifically states, “in addition to the content of specific subjects, schools are seen as the place where children will be inoculated against all social ills or taught all the virtues from street proofing to AIDS, antismoking, drinking, and drug abuse education” (p.14) It also says that “schools are expected to prevent bullying, obesity, and anorexia while also eliminating racism and promoting equity in all its forms” (p.14). This is a concern to me because this can be a lot of pressure put onto teachers, especially new teachers. They are coming into schools after spending years studying and attempting to master the ability to teach their designated area, and they have so much pressure put on to do well and have all their students succeed, as well as going about teaching these sorts of topics that are not directly outlined in the curriculum. 


After reading the Levin article as well as the Treaty Education document, I can make the connection that public involvement in implementing curriculum is lacking. Both articles state how they have committees made up of administrators and senior education, etc.. However, the public are those who are receiving this information and it would be thought that their voices should be heard and taken into account seriously. They are also connected because both articles/documents relate to the politics surrounding education. I think that these educational politics are one of the tensions that would of occurred while creating this document. There has been plenty of push back from teachers, parents, students, and the public in general about Treaty education. It is finally now starting to get a fraction of the recognition it needs and it is something that is only going to continue to grow. 

Dear X

Dear X,

It is very unfortunate to hear that you’re having some difficulty with getting your students engaged and coop teacher to give you some support. However, you might find that this is a predominant issue within certain schools in our city. I have compiled a few suggestions to help you not only teach the subject/content, but also have your students (and hopefully coop teacher) engage in a rich understanding of Treaty Education and Indigenous issues.

Regarding your students, given it is a 30 level course, most students will be in grade twelve (17-18) meaning for most of their school career Indigenous issues and Treaty education was minimal, repetitive, and ineffective. I would suggest that you begin with the present and try to have your students “retrace” their steps on how they or how their family got here. This could help the students understand that although they are not the ones who specifically put children into Residential schools or took them from their families and forced them to forget about their culture, if nothing is done to change it or face it, then we are just as much as part of the issue. One of the biggest things to focus on while teaching Treaty Education is to teach the relationship aspect between the settlers (white non-Indigenous people) and Indigenous people. It is important that students understand this relationship in order to build this gap in learning. 

In terms of your Coop teacher, I think it would be meaningful to have a conversation with her and her views on teaching Treaty education and why she thinks it is not important because the school/class population is mainly non-Indigenous. I would try explaining that because the school does not have many Indigenous students that it is even more important to be teaching it. The Indigenous students already know the impact of Residential Schools and the Sixties Scoop. They are living with this history and pain everyday. The white settler students are the ones who need this education most. This could help her understand and could potentially have a domino effect on some other staff members. 

I hope that this helps moving forward in attempts to talk about Indigenous issues and Treaty education and hopefully you can gain the support of your Coop teacher. Treaty education is important and is something that is not going away. It is becoming more and more important that teachers are delivering this aspect of the curriculum. Just remember that change will not occur after one class or one conversation. Be patient and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You will learn from them and will probably make the learning more valuable because you will make sure not to make the same mistake again! Good luck! 

All the best,

Miss. McGillivray

Learning from Place: Reflection

In the article “Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing” we are taken through the process that aims to reinhabit the ways that the Mushkegowuk used to learn and live, as well as any acts to westen/colonize their land were trying to be reversed. Some examples of reinhabitation and decolonization throughout the narrative include:

  • All community members interacting and learning from each other 
    • The article mentions that coming into the project, the community wanted to bring the generations to not only share knowledge but to use this knowledge to restore specifically the meaning for the land and the river and their relevance (not just a resource). 
    • This was also done through interviews between the community youth and Elders for an audio documentary and the article specifically states, “The point of the interviews was to encourage intergenerational relationships and catalyze knowledge transfer from Elder generations to youth. The interviews were not “data” but ways of bringing together community, of fostering dialogue and generating spaces for socializing conceptualizations of the territory from a Mushkegowuk perspective” (p. 74-75). 
  • The “reborn” interest and knowledge of the river 
    • Elders and youth would go for walks down the river and learn about ways to live off the river and lands as well as note key sites along the way. Together, they also explored the history, language, issues of governance, and land management. Through this process, youth and even some adults began to understand (or “relearn” how the way of life used to be) “the importance of land for social and economic well-being among people in the remote First Nation as well as documented sites of significance to the community, experienced routes that hold great historical significance, and brought people together in the sharing of knowledge” (p.75). 
  • Language and Terminology used within the community
    • The words paquataskamik and Kistachowan Sipi were the Albany River’s original name. Paquataskamik is Cree word that describes the natural environment. However, when Europeans colonized the land, it was divided and regulated into treaties and reserves which resulted in a loss of significance of what paquataskamik is. 

As a continue to pursue my journey of becoming a teacher, I hope that I can use these ideas in my own classroom and subject areas. As a physical education teacher, I can easily integrate Indigenous games into my lessons! There are so many games that students are playing now that have Indigenous roots and are unaware of it. An example of this would be a game such as “British Bulldog”. This game is a tag game played often in elementary schools that consists of one or two people being “it” in the middle, while the rest of the class tries to travel from one side of the gym (or other playing area) to the other side without being tagged. This same game was played by the people in the Dakota region, but instead it was called “Tatanka Tatanka”. Tatanka means buffalo and was created to mimic the husbands, fathers, and grandfathers that would leave to hunt. You could easily take even just this simple game and apply the history of it to other disciplines. indigenous 

The “Good” Student

Being a “good” student is often more complicated than it might seem. If you were to ask me what I would consider a good student before starting my path down education as a future teacher, I might say things such as:

  1. Always on time for class
  2. Respectful towards others and staff
  3. Doesn’t disturb the class (ex. Sits quietly)
  4. Listens and responds correctly to instruction
  5. Performs well on tests and assignments 

However, I quickly discovered that these conditions do not define a “good” student from a “bad” one and that because of my own views I was and still can be stuck in the common sense water of what a “good” students looks like. Kumashiro explains that being a “good” student is not necessarily measured through the curriculum, but rather how you act while at school. He explains two examples of students M and N. Student M often misbehaved, did not listen to their teacher, and did things on their own, regardless of if it was what they were supposed to be doing or not. Through the common sense understanding of a good student, M was labeled as the opposite. They got into trouble, was always having to be told what to do, and even became angry and aggressive at times (specifically when having to sit and be quiet for long periods of time). After questioning why M is the way they are, the teacher changed the structure of the classroom to be less strict and started to see a different student in M. They began to work hard at their art work and would ask questions about what they were learning. Student M is an example of how ways students indirectly communicate to their teachers about how they are feeling at school and what can happen if teachers listen. 

Student N was vocal with their resistance of wanting to learn what was being taught. Essays were done with half effort and rarely would they participate in class discussions. However, when given the opportunity to write and read about something they desired, student N created detailed, insightful work and constantly asked questions and wanted to expand their learning. 

Student M and N are examples of students who don’t fit what most teachers, schools, and even society would consider a “good” student, but that doesn’t mean they are “bad”. They have different ways of obtaining learning and teachers need to be able to create an environment that can nurture this learning. Teachers, schools, and society also need to understand that learning is more than a syllabus or a series of tests to pass, but rather something that is happening constantly and continues beyond the walls of the classroom. 

Students who find it easy to fit into the cookie cutter of a “good” student probably had it pretty good at school. These students were the ones who always had a ride (or some sort of transportation) to school, they were able to sit quietly in their desk for a long period of time, came to school fed and well rested, had a place at home to complete assignments on time, and because of these things it built a good relationship with the teacher. But what if you are responsible for getting all of your younger siblings to school because your parents/guardians can’t? What if you have ADHD and can’t sit still at all, and when forced to it can cause outbursts that are seen as disruptive to the class? What if you are coming to school every morning on an empty stomach and little sleep? Often these conditions would cause a student to stand out and not fit into the cookie cutter of a “good” student.  This definition makes it impossible to see students as people. Instead they are seen as something they need to produce. If a student resists or does not fit the “good” student definition then their learning experience is going to be very difficult. Overall, teachers are one of the most important people who need to understand and go against or challenge the norms of what is seen as a “good” student vs. a “bad” one. I am very interested in this topic and I hope some of you can share your thoughts and interests as well!