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Math has ‘colonial bias’: teachers to attend indigenous math retreat to confront ‘harmful practices’

A teacher’s retreat in Ontario, Canada, is inviting educators in math to an event called “Exploring the powers and potential of Indigenous knowledge systems in mathematics,” according to the Post Millennial and promotional images of the event.

The two-day retreat promises teachers will “deepen their understanding of incorporating Indigenous mathematics systems to enhance – and transform – the teaching and learning of mathematics for all students.”

The session will explore how “mathematics, along with other subjects, are not exempt from colonial bias and harmful practices that lead to inequities in student achievement.”

The itinerary also promises to share tips and strategies on indigenous knowledge without “appropriating, minimizing, or tokenizing.”

The “about” section reads, “Indigenous knowledge systems, pedagogies, and methodologies can enhance and support the teaching and learning of mathematical concepts,” including that “educational spaces can uplift Indigenous knowledge systems and create transformative learning for all students.”

A new math curriculum for Ontario’s educational system in 2021 stated, “Mathematics has been used to normalize racism and marginalization of non-Eurocentric mathematical knowledges, and a decolonial, anti-racist approach to mathematics education makes visible its historical roots and social constructions.”

The curriculum also states that math is subjective, as are the mathematicians it “celebrates,” adding that “the importance that is placed upon mathematics by society are subjective.”

The “transformative learning” teachers’ getaway will feature outdoor activities as well as speakers. One of the speakers is an award-winning “Indigenous educator,” while another is the co-chair for the First Nations, Métis and Inuit Education Association of Ontario.

The Ontario Mathematics Coordinators Association, which is hosting the event, prides itself on forming during the Cold War and that its annual retreat aims to bring in the “top thinkers, activists and leaders” in mathematics.

The retreat takes place at the Hockley Valley Resort, which costs around $275-$300 per person, per night at the start of 2023.

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