Coming Together to Learn Together: Lisa Lunney Borden
Dr. Lisa Lunney Borden shares her work in supporting mathematics with the Mi’kmaw community in Nova Scotia, where the graduation rate of Indigenous students is higher than that of the general population. Lisa’s work highlights the importance of “Making Meaningful Personal Connections” to mathematics, including understanding Ways of Learning, Values, Language and Culture. Lisa’s practical examples and stories will support all educators to integrate these perspectives into math learning for all students.
Coming Together to Learn
The concept of coming together to learn together is at the centre of current work in supporting mathematics learning in the Mi’kmam community. This work began with conversations among educators and elders about culturally based mathematics and has led to powerful relationships throughout the learning community.
Language and World View
Teachers gain understanding about how language shapes world view and students come to see learning as an important tool in their lives when teachers honour their language by using it daily in the classroom. The complexity of counting in the Mi’kmam language illustrates the power of valuing indigenous contexts.
Mi'kmaw Language in the Classroom
When students hear their language in their classrooms they feel a sense of home and comfort and identify this as the factor that makes their school different from others.
What's the word for?
The Mi’kmam language is constructed relationally – the context for a word is always central to its use. Language impacts mathematics learning - just because students speak English at school teachers should not assume they are also thinking in English – this is illustrated through an analysis of a common math term.
The Mi’kmam language embeds community values about numbers and space – a number alone does not give enough information to determine spatial reasoning which is a central value in indigenous communities.
Mi’kmam reasoning is often about estimation and approximation while mathematics is often viewed as an exact discipline. Different ways of thinking about mathematics are evident in the description of how an elder builds a quill box based on both purposefulness and math concepts. Students need to know that their elders are mathematicians and that what they do and know are valued.
Learning about mathematics is celebrated when students come together to share how they are learning about the world through indigenous knowledge. Packaging is connected to basket making as students use mathematics to discover answers while elders know answers through their indigenous knowledge.
Birch Bark Biting
Indigenous knowledge is a powerful foundation for revitalizing mathematics learning. Mathematics is made meaningful for students when they learn skills in birch bark biting, making canoes paddles and snowshoes, how to do quill work and how to tap maple trees.