Indian Education for All (IEA) and math

I received an interesting email from my principal today.  She wanted the math teachers to send her the IEA lessons, topics or components from our math classes.  Gurk. I have no IEA lessons, topics or components in my math classes (or my CS classes for that matter).  So being a good little teacher I wandered up to one of the other math teachers and asked her what IEA she did.  Her list matched mine. But being smarter than me she had gone to the Office of Public Instruction website to see what they had.  OMG. Figuring the surface area of a tipi is not Indian Education. Switching the names of cities for a Traveling Salesman Problem to the names of reservation pow wows is not Indian Education.  Learning of seven stars in Crow astronomy and then computing their brightness is not Indian Education. Learning about tipis, reservation and pow wows and Crow astronomy is Indian Education, but each of these lessons were obviously designed to use something Indian in them just to check the IEA box.  The amount of math that can be done with just the tipi as the primary focus is quite a bit; weight estimations, number of hides needed for that surface area, length of poles for a tipi of given size (height and radius involved), nature of the cone shape when heating a volume of air (the things stay warm with a very small fire even in the winter) but all of this would have to revolve around the legacy of the tipi and the indians that used them.  Writing a math problem involving cones and then switching “cone” for “tipi” does not do the trick for me. IEA is not switching the words but teaching the history behind the words. Now we are in a History/Social Studies/Native American Studies course with a lot of math. Not a bad idea but not what most math teachers are ready for.

There are also some cultural issues involved with IEA.  Most whites put all Indians in one pot. Indians are as different as Europeans.  Different histories, different cultures, different languages, and just plain different.  That Crow astronomy problem would not be popular in a Blackfeet school. Most of the tribes get along now (sort of) but they have been forced into it by their common foe, whites and the US Government.  IEA is not as easy at it would seem.

Now that I am thinking about IEA I think I can come up with something relevant especially with the tipi idea.  Something better than switching “cone” for “tipi”. I am not going to touch the Crow astronomy (I am Blackfeet and could care less about Crow astronomy) but I could definitely see it of being of interest in a Crow classroom if it were expanded.  The TSP and pow wows is just plain stupid.

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