Ethnomathematics and Critical Mathematics

Arthur B. Powell, Gelsak Knijnik, Gloria Gilmer and Marilyn Frankenstein



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 counter-approach 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- of-school as well as in-school contexts.


The symposium will address issues such as: We expect each participant to bring a list of theoretical and practical questions/issues and some to bring specific examples of ethnomath-criticalmath 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.