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Numeracy in Haida Gwaii, BC: Connecting community, pedagogy, and epistemology

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(Thesis) Ph.D.
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The performance and participation rates of Aboriginal students in mathematics in British Columbia are significantly lower than those of the general student population. The purpose of this study is three fold. First of all; to find out how the community of Haida Gwaii/Queen Charlotte Islands, BC, which consists of Haida and non-Haida people, uses mathematics and numeracy practices in their daily life. Secondly, to find out how su ch numeracy practices could be integrated into the present curriculum taught in the schools so that students would be interested in learning mathematics. Finally, to explore the different ways of knowing that could increase the participation rate and achievement of Aboriginal students in high school mathematics. This study is based on interviews of members of the Haida Role Model Program, community members, and educators on the islands of Haida Gwaii/Queen Charlotte Islands. It shows how the community of Haida Gwaii practices numeracy with its unique culture and environment in a way that makes sense to the people living there. The problems they solve are contextual and situated within that community, and provide insights into how the Haida use their knowledge in dealing with quantitative, relational, and spatial aspects of their lives. The challenge is to recognize and acknowledge the embedded numeracy practices of the community and apply the pedagogy to teach school mathem atics. If Aboriginal students could see themselves included an d represented in the curriculum, then their learning of mathematics is likely to improve. There is a tension between maintaining culture and evolving culture. There is also a tension about how school mathematics should connect with the daily numeracy practices. Many Aboriginal communities feel that the student performance is usually measured with a different cultural lens. These are artificial polarizations because in essence what the elders and role models are calling for is dual epistemologies: situate the learning in our culture to help them learn, also teach the students to know the Modern ways so that they measure up to the Western standards in order to succeed in the Western world.
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