My math schooling was centered around being able to read and understand problems, and being able to write and solve them. After reading about the Inuit schooling, I realize how this could have been oppressive to students who were just learning how to read and write in English. Although they may have understood it in their head, it didn’t matter, what mattered was if you got the answer right and were able to show the process of how you got there. I don’t recall elementary math as well but I know in most high school math courses there was a lot of content to be learned in the time that we had. There was almost no room for extra learning days, which meant if you needed extra help you went after school, or during lunch. This is oppressive to any kid you doesn’t process math easily because if you don’t understand a topic quickly enough then you fall behind. Even during class time when we had to do homework and ask questions, there was usually a line up at the teacher’s desk, and when time ran out and you didn’t get your turn, it would depend on the teacher how flexible they were with helping you out of class.
One way Inuit mathematics challenges Eurocentric math is the base 20 system. Eurocentric math uses a base of 10. This means that the Inuit students would have a completely different process of how they would get to an answer then what is expected in the Eurocentric math ways. As well, the Inuit use their bodies for measurement instead of the metric system. Something that was also really interesting is the calendar. The Inuit calendar is based on animals and does not have pre-set dates, it changes with nature and the animals. The Inuit count their numbers orally, as well when they are talking about a number the word varies depending on the context. In the English language the number three is always just that, three, but in Inuit language that can vary depending on the context that the number is being used in, for example if it is a grouping of three, a pattern of three, the digit three, etc. So, neither Inuit math or Eurocentric math is better or worse than the other, but this goes to show that no wonder the Inuit students failed on the Eurocentric math tests; I would probably fail on an Inuit math test, and I do fairly well in Eurocentric math. These are two completely different methods of thinking and understanding that cannot simply be translated from one language to the next.