Using School Mathematics to Understand Cultural Activities: How Far Can We Go?
AbstractMathematics and culture are often interconnected, making school mathematics intimately linked to the society in which it is taught. In response to this connection, mathematics educational reform policies indicate that learners should be getting an education which is connected to their cultures. Contexts are seen to be useful insofar as they provide access to school mathematics. This article focuses on the reverse, that is, using school mathematics to deepen our understanding of cultural activities, largely based on the notion that the mathematics content learnt in schools will be transferred by learners to use in their daily lives. We propose that this reverse practice calls for learners who are mathematically, socially and epistemologically empowered through mathematics education. We argue that mathematics classrooms rarely establish mathematics as an essential tool for understanding and changing the world. Critical pedagogy is not being valued as an emerging pedagogic agenda in mathematics education. Also the advanced nature of cultural practices need more advanced mathematical knowledge possibly to respond to the complexity of the practices. The qualitative study from which this article emerges worked with three mathematics teachers and their Grade 9 learners from one rural school (situated very close to a cultural village). An attempt was made to try and connect mathematics concepts to cultural activities. Based on the analysis of data collected over an extended period of ethnographic and participant classroom observation, we argue that school mathematical knowledge can be used to read and understand cultural practices deeper.
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