We recently attended a math conference, with keynote speaker Dr. Lisa Lunney. There, she talked about "Indigenous Ways of Knowing". We often think of things like Pi as being something the Greeks discovered, and therefore, only they could understand it. However, Dr. Lunney discussed how a Mi'kmaq elder in her community used a traditional method to make a perfect circle for her quillbox, using three lengths of wood strips and a thumb width...Pi, anyone? Her blog, Show Me Your Math, looks at how these traditional "Ways of Knowing" can be incorporated into the classroom.
My main takeaway from the conference had to do with the idea of not always focusing on Eurocentric knowledge in topics like math. After all, the Indigenous people of this land used math in THEIR everyday lives, too. Whether it was to determine how much food was "enough", how to create intricate patterns, or how to build a dwelling, people living in North America prior to the arrival of Europeans relied on their own mathematics, developed over generations. I believe that these understandings should be celebrated. The First Peoples of this land survived treacherous winters and untold perils, which is a testament to their knowledge and wisdom...and is worth teaching to our younger generations!