Understanding Relationships between Aboriginal Knowledge Systems, Wisdom Traditions, and Mathematics: Research Possibilities (13w5120)


Edward Doolittle (First Nations University of Canada)

Florence Glanfield (University of Alberta)


The Banff International Research Station will host the "Understanding Relationships between Aboriginal Knowledge Systems, Wisdom Traditions, and Mathematics: Research Possibilities (HALF)" workshop from November 24th to November 29th, 2013.

In Canada, Aboriginal postsecondary enrolment and completion rates are significantly lower than those of non-Aboriginals (Statistics Canada, 1996; Canadian Millenium Scholarship Foundation, 2004). This is most evident in disciplines involving science and mathematics (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 2005). Furthermore, Aboriginal student achievement in K – grade 12 mathematics courses is significantly lower than those of non-Aboriginal students (Neel, 2007). Given the research around the different ways in which mathematics can be integrated into Aboriginal youth mathematical experiences and into school programs, why are these performance statistics not showing improvement?

We are interested in a more complex notion: the ways in which Aboriginal communities themselves take ownership of mathematics. One way of understanding the issue is ‘completing the circle:’ an Aboriginal community becomes mathematically self-sufficient when it is capable of producing the mathematics and the mathematics teachers that are needed. We seek to understand how that cycle might be put in motion. Furthermore, in current approaches, conventionalized mathematics standards and frames of reference are typically rooted in Eurocentric perspectives. To be truly useful, we think that mathematics should grow from a living practice philosophy in an organic manner (Donald, 2009). We would like to learn how mathematics could grow from within communities, or at least how it can be contextualized and synthesized through a shared understanding, as the communities respond to changing contemporary environments and needs.

Through a process that respects community protocols and knowledge, we hope to develop new approaches and methods of research around mathematics education that build on understanding of the dynamics and significance of Aboriginal knowledge systems.

The Banff International Research Station for Mathematical Innovation and Discovery (BIRS) is a collaborative Canada-US-Mexico venture that provides an environment for creative interaction as well as the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and methods within the Mathematical Sciences, with related disciplines and with industry. The research station is located at The Banff Centre in Alberta and is supported by Canada's Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), Alberta's Advanced Education and Technology, and Mexico's Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT).