Use of Indigenous Elements in Teaching Mathematics and Science
Jess McIver and Georg Rieger
This presentation is based on materials collected within my research and community-based projects at the First Nations University of Canada and targets three groups of audience: learners, educators and researchers. The materials have been created in three formats: publications, Power Point Presentations and Videos. My intention is to address the importance, doability and advantage of the holistic way of teaching the Science and Mathematics in an example of the integration of modern Science and Indigenous Knowledge elements.
Dr. Sardarli joined the First Nations University of Canada in 2007. He led a number of community-based projects. Dr. Sardarli uses Indigenous elements in his teaching. He co-authored the first Cree Dictionary of Mathematical with elements of Indigenous Art. In 2008, Dr. Sardarli initiated a nationwide annual Wiseman Mathematics Contest. He coordinated the research project on mathematical modeling of water quality using Indigenous knowledge. Dr. Sardarli’s projects have been supported by agencies, such as NSERC, SSHRC, Health Canada, and Canadian Heritage. He received The Recognition Event Awards of The Regional Centre of Expertise (Saskatchewan) for his innovative Indigenous community-based projects
It is remarkable that the word "Science" that we, educators use as a title for the group of subjects (Physics, Biology, Chemistry, etc.) taught in academia, is translated into many languages (Arabian, Ukrainian, Turkish ...) as "Knowledge", giving the meaning of gaining and analysis of integrated information about both, Nature and Community. This is not just a linguistic nuance. I try to bring elements of the Indigenous Knowledge and Art to the teaching of my post-secondary Mathematics and Science courses in order to add this missing piece to the puzzle, combining the so-called "Western" and Indigenous Knowledge. My view of this integration is very close to the "Etuaptmumk" - Two-Eyed Seeing principle explained by Elder Albert Marshall, which refers to "learning to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strengths of Western knowledge and ways of knowing ... and learning to use both these eyes together, for the benefit of all".
In collaboration with my colleagues from the First Nations University of Canada and the University of Regina, I have developed examples with Indigenous elements for Physics, Mathematics and Statistics courses of our universities. Within my research and community-based projects I interviewed Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers in order to collect the information for these examples. The examples are included in the textbooks that I co-authored and course materials offered by the First Nations University of Canada and the University of Regina. These projects were supported by The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Health Canada, Heritage Canada, First Nations University of Canada and the University of Regina.
Modern technologies allow us to incorporate the original interviews into the teaching materials in various media formats.
1. Wiseman Mathematics Contest
I initiated the Wiseman Mathematics Contest was in 2008 at the First Nations University of Canada. The start-up of the project was supported by The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada within the PromoScience program. Since then, thousands of First Nations students from across Canada in grades 4, 5, and 6 across Canada have participated. The purpose of the Contest is to motivate young students in First Nations schools in Saskatchewan and other provinces to learn Mathematics in a competitive environment.
The Wiseman Mathematics Contest meets the needs of Mathematics teachers in First Nations Schools who want to assess their students' problem-solving skills in a competitive environment. Along with the contests, First Nations University also develops and delivers preparatory materials. Mathematics teachers prepare their students for the contest using these materials, but can also use the materials to immerse the students in alternative problem-solving, expanding on curriculum. Many teachers use these materials for extracurricular activities.
Students participate in the project voluntarily. The contest provides the opportunity to work on non-traditional problems in a non-mandatory but competitive environment, which is atypical for Western schools.
In 2016, the Regional Centre of Expertise (Saskatchewan) on Education for Sustainable Development Recognition Program acknowledged the Wiseman Mathematics Contest as an innovative project. It noted that the project has helped increase the capacity for sustainable development in the Saskatchewan region and contributed to the advancement of the UNESCO Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development.
2. Cree Dictionary of Mathematical Terms
In 2015 – 2021, we developed the first explanatory Cree Dictionary of Mathematical Terms in paper (Willie Ermine, Arzu Sardarli, Ida Swan) and online (Arzu Sardarli, Ida Swan) formats. The project was supported by the First Nations University of Canada and the University of Regina. The Dictionary was reviewed by Elders George McLeod and Jerry Saddleback, Indigenous academics Solomon Ratt and Lionel Peyachew, educators Nelson Benjamin Merasty and Steven Swan. The Indigenous artist Larissa Kitchemonia participated in developing visual examples. This project was recognized by Lyle Benko Future Generations Award of the Saskatchewan Regional Centre of Expertise.
I used some findings of my research projects to develop examples with Indigenous elements for my university courses.
3. Research project "Developing Mathematical Model of Water Quality Dynamics using Indigenous Knowledge."
This project was conducted in collaboration with the Kahkewistahaw and Peepeekisis First Nations communities. Within the project, we interviewed Indigenous Elders and specified criteria to evaluate the water quality. Community members were asked to evaluate water quality in their communities based on the determined criteria. Using the statistical analysis of the collected data, we developed a mathematical model of the water quality dynamics using the Indigenous way of evaluating the water quality.
4. Research project " Studies of physical parameters of Indigenous artefacts; collecting and preserving the relating oral stories."
This project was conducted by scholars from the First Nations University of Canada, Royal Saskatchewan Museum, University of Regina and University of Saskatchewan in collaboration with Sturgeon Lake and Pelican Narrows First Nations communities in Canada. The objectives of the project were (i) to develop a research ethics protocol for collecting, studying and preserving Indigenous artifacts; (ii) to determine physical parameters of artifacts from communities and Royal Saskatchewan Museum collections; (iii) to collect oral stories in communities. Within the project, we managed consultations with Elders and Indigenous Knowledge Keepers. Two workshops were organized in the communities. Indigenous students were trained to work in the communities. The laboratory measurements were carried out at the Scanning Electron Microscope Laboratory of the University of Alberta, the Saskatchewan Isotope Laboratory of the University of Saskatchewan and the André E. Lalonde Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory of the University of Ottawa. We analyzed the data obtained from the measurements of physical parameters of artifacts collected in these communities and selected from the Royal Saskatchewan Museum collections. The purpose of the statistical analysis was to determine the similarities of artifacts with respect to their chemical compositions.
W. Ermine, A. Sardarli, I. Swan, "Cree Dictionary of Mathematical Terms for Elementary Classes", 170 p, ISBN-13: 978-0-7731-0770-0, University of Regina, 2017
A. Sardarli, I. Swan, "Cree Dictionary of Mathematical Terms with Visual Examples, Online ISBN-13: 978-0-7731-0779-3, University of Regina, 2022
A. Sardarli, "Studies of Physical Parameters of Indigenous Artifacts. Collecting and preserving the relating oral stories", 160 p, Print ISBN-13: 978-0-7731-0767-0, Online ISBN-13: 978-0-7731-0769-4, University of Regina, 2021
A. Sardarli, E. Siegfried, S. Wall, “Studies of Physical Parameters of Indigenous Artifacts. Collecting and preserving the relating oral stories. Catalogue”, 86 p, Print ISBN-13: 978-0-7731-0765-6, Online ISBN-13: 978-0-7731-0766-3, University of Regina, 2021
- "Two-Eyed Seeing", Mi'kmaw Elder Albert Marshall
- URL: http://www.integrativescience.ca/Principles/TwoEyedSeeing/
- A. Sardarli, Use of Indigenous Knowledge in Modeling the Water Quality Dynamics in Peepeekisis and Kahkewistahaw First Nations Communities, Pimatiswin: A Journal of Aboriginal and Indigenous Community Health 11(1), 2013, 55-63
- URL: https://journalindigenouswellbeing.co.nz/use-of-indigenous-knowledge-in-modeling-the-water-quality-dynamics-in-peepeekisis-and-kahkewistahaw-first-nations-communities/
- A. Sardarli, S. Pete, T. Ngamkham, S. Suraphee, A. Volodin, The Determinants of Annual Income in Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Communities: Comparative Statistical Analysis, Thailand Statistician, 17(2), 2019, 235-241
- URL: https://ph02.tci-thaijo.org/index.php/thaistat/article/view/202300/141174
- A. Sardarli, A. Volodin, Kh. Osmanli, E. Siegfried, Statistical Analysis of Physical Parameters of Indigenous Artifacts, Lobachevskii Journal of Mathematics, 42 (13), 2021, 3224-3229
- URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1134/S1995080222010188
- Wiseman Mathematics Contest | URL: https://www.facebook.com/WisemanContest
- Studies of Physical Parameters of Indigenous Artifacts. Collecting and preserving the relating oral stories | URL: http://indigenous-artifacts.ca/