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Stavrou, S. G., & Miller, D. (2017).

Miscalculations: Decolonizing and anti-oppressive


discourses in indigenous mathematics education. Canadian Journal of Education, 40(3),
92-122.
Ethnomathematics researchers, Stavros Stavrou and Dianne Miller of the University of
Saskatchewan tackles the ongoing issues that Indigenous mathematics students face continually
in North America with their unapologetic critique. Immediately, they counter the attribution of
learning disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous learners from curricula restraints
and cultural practices that are incompatible to learning mathematics. Instead, they focus on
educators and researchers who fail to acknowledge colonization and ongoing racism, alongside
perpetuating oppressive pedagogy in the classroom, both knowingly and unknowingly. The
authors take time to also suggest ways to create decolonized and anti-oppressive education
systems. They advocate for the identification and challenging of the root causes of oppression
and inequalities that are reproduced in the classroom. As well, they stress the importance of
counter-hegemonic practices that eliminate the superiority of Western knowledge over
Indigenous knowledge. Often attributed to not working hard enough, marginalized groups
encounter many learning barriers that are not within their control. For example, non-Indigenous
teachers and researchers will often fail to acknowledge the negative effects of our country’s
attempt at cultural genocide, and its ramifications that have spanned for decades. Stravrou and
Miller also detail how researchers have erroneously, and ignorantly, accounted for disparity in
education due to the lack of cultural relevance, different learning styles or being disadvantaged
from an early age due not being auditory learners, like their White counterparts. Moreover,
colonization and residential schools are either not cited as key factors or when they are
mentioned in the research, some have failed to connect these factors to disparity in mathematics
education. In another study, science educators rejected the notion that their classes purposefully
assimilate Indigenous students into a Western worldview. These teachers also attribute the lack
of Indigenous students following science-related careers to disinterest or student deficits, as
opposed to curricula or their teaching practices. Twisting these issues further, Indigenous
educators and students feel inadequate when they are unable to reproduce their culture and
language in authentic ways. Non-Indigenous educators who attempt to bring Indigenous culture
into their classroom are often doing so due to having Indigenous knowledge tacked onto the
Western curriculum, where they run the risk of superficially treating the culture. The importance
of connecting knowledge to place, context, and relationship are critical in the development of
meaningful Indigenous methodologies. Lastly, the authors contend that the revitalization of
Indigenous celebratory culture is shifting the focus away from the effects of racism in Canada
and that the focus instead must be to help educators understand the ongoing oppression in
Canada and in its classrooms.
This paper formed a foundational base in my quest to create a culturally responsive learning
environment in my classroom. Having been a student in ETEC 521, I was already aware of the
attempted nationwide eradication of Indigenous cultures in Canada; the assimilation attempt that
forced Indigenous people into the lowest societal circles; and the ongoing effects from such
inhumane and destructive laws and practices. What made this paper so important for my learning
was that Stravrou and Miller brought these effects directly into my mathematics classroom. Like
Dr. Marker had already done, these researchers turned my focus away from my students, and
onto myself. In the past, I have also assumed that the lack of Indigenous participation in my
classes was due to the content not being culturally relevant or simply because of disinterest or
inability. Now, I know that it is not just a matter of curriculum but also a matter of pedagogical
approaches to curriculum. Perhaps there will come a day that I can help develop culturally-
driven mathematics curriculum, that still allows students to continue towards STEM-related
career pathways. In the meantime, I will focus on creating a larger third space via relationship
building, collaborative learning, storytelling and honouring the nature of place. I am going to
need some help with this, so I suppose my other focus will be to find some Vygotskian MKOs!
Please contact me if you can help me move forward with this shift in how mathematics is taught.