Ethnomathematics and Critical Mathematics
Arthur B. Powell,
Gelsak Knijnik, Gloria Gilmer and Marilyn Frankenstein
Abstract
There appear to
be two different/contradictory strands emerging in ethnomathematics research
and educational practice. One is disconnected from context, "folkloreistic/exotica."
The other is connected to broad context and part of critical mathematics.
The critical strand, for example, is not just interested in the mathematics
of Angolan sand drawings and their use in story telling, but also in the
politics of imperialism that arrested the development of this cultural
tradition and in the politics of cultural imperialism that discounts the
mathematical activity involved in creating Angolan sand drawings. The critical
approach views ethnomathematics as a counterapproach to both the "exotica"
strand and to Eurocentrism in mathematics education. This symposium will
look at both the underlying philosophy guiding the critical approach to
ethnomathematics, including the debates it provokes to the "exotica" approach,
and its application in out ofschool as well as inschool contexts.
Introduction
The symposium will address
issues such as:

Is ethnomathematics watering
down the "real" mathematics curriculum (and even more so for "third world
" students who have had less access to mathematics)?

Is ethnomathematics research
its own form of cultural imperialism, by "imposing" the academic mathematics
curriculum on, for example, African cultural artifacts and practices?

Does ethnomathematics
research and educational practice divorce the cultural traditions from
their context, thereby trivializing and fragmenting them from their real
meaning in context?

How can ethnomathematics
be integrated in educational contexts without trivializing the cultural
context and/or the mathematics curriculum?

How can ethnomathematics
contribute to or be part of a critical mathematics curriculum?
We expect each participant
to bring a list of theoretical and practical questions/issues and some
to bring specific examples of ethnomathcriticalmath practice. We’ll use
these to set the agenda for the symposium. We will also discuss a way to
summarize and/or continue the discussion beyond the conference.