Non-Eurocentric Knowledges in Ontario

From the Grade 9 mathematical curriculum in the province of Ontario:

I’m no mathematician, but as a philologist, I’d fail the authors of this text in basic writing.

The screenshot is from here. The whole document is quite incredible in its rambling, incoherent insanity.

22 thoughts on “Non-Eurocentric Knowledges in Ontario

    1. Indeed neither would anyone else. Bridges will be designed by Indian engineers who would do a better job at 1/10th the salary. That’s the point of this education.


  1. Same here, or flying in an airplane with a pilot who barely passed the test and doesn’t know math.


  2. Well. It seems my colleagues do not realize algebra comes from the Babylonians originally, and that there were Greek and Chinese mathematicians at the same time using geometry to solve the same problems, and the concept of 0 is Mayan, and they also did complex calculations, etc., so math is universal in that everyone does it, it doesn’t come just from straight white guys or whatever, and there may in fact be more than one way to solve a math problem, or more than one solution.

    I learned this kind of thing about the history of math in school as fun facts, and I also learned about the multiple solutions. Parents REALLY hated the multiple approaches/multiple solutions reveal but you learn it if you get into advanced math, do math in college, etc., so learning in K-12 that it existed wasn’t a bad thing at all. People want “math” to just be arithmetic and want you not to have to think. But those engineers designing the good bridges DO know this much math, know how to solve complex problems with more than one approach, etc.

    However: when I was in school it was assumed that nowadays only men could do math seriously, girls couldn’t, etc. So finding out we can isn’t a bad idea. And it appears that people like the writers of this document, and my colleagues, didn’t have as interesting a math education as I did, and have suddenly tried to absorb too much badly digested “theory.”

    But really and truly: just as you can tell students about famous cultural figures in the Hispanic world while you are teaching basic grammar, you can tell them about famous mathematicians and number systems from around the world while you are teaching basic arithmetic. It’s enriching, yes?


    1. You absolutely can tell students about famous mathematicians from around the world. You also do not have to tell them about any mathematicians at all. The most important thing is to actually teach students some mathematics. Unfortunately, this “math as a tool of oppression” is not going to make it more attractive to anyone, no matter who you are (man, woman, …)


      1. Right, and/but I think the people who wrote the document didn’t have a decent math education. They are the ones seeing it as a tool of oppression because of certain ways it is sometimes taught: you must get the right answer, you will lose points if you do not do this or that, etc., so the math class is like a place of punishment, not a place of learning. There are people who hate French because of this kind of teaching, also. BUT that’s not the fault of math or French, it’s authoritarian teaching.

        I guess I was lucky, I had math teachers who liked math and thought it was exciting, so it seemed creative and aesthetically pleasing to me, and I liked the way it sharpened the mind with logic.


    2. “you can tell them about famous mathematicians and number systems from around the world while you are teaching basic arithmetic”

      You can, but that’s not what this curriculum seems to be about. I sent to the site and listened/read around and the meta-message seems to be (forget math, it’s not for you, you poor oppressed thing). Over emphasizing (or fetishizing) victimization and oppression is a very subtle and effective way of keeping people down, “Don’t worry, no one expects you to be able to learn math!” That’s probably not what the authors were aiming for but it’s how it works out in the real world.

      How is any graduate of this program (no matter how ‘naturally’ gifted) going to compete with people (regardless of national background) who’ve been pushing themselves in advanced courses for years?

      This seems like Ontario gracefully giving up the idea of actually teaching math to anyone (so they won’t have expensive demands when looking for jobs).


      1. Yes, it sort of seems like this. And it seems that these educators don’t realize math wasn’t a “white” thing originally, doesn’t just belong to Europeans, etc. What they need to learn is that nonwhite people are good at math the world over, and that they should stop thinking the opposite since it isn’t true.


          1. I don’t think it’s going to help anybody to do well in math to know this. My mother and aunt were math teachers. Every math Prof at my polytechnic was female. And I still sucked bullets. This theory that knowing somebody from your identity group did something well will help you do it well is very widespread in the US but nobody else in the world believes it. Because these identity categories are stupid and useless. This is all magical thinking, folks. Showing me to monolingual Ukrainians will do absolutely nothing to teach them to speak languages simply because most people aren’t made to be multilingual. Just like I’m not made to master calculus no matter how many Ukrainian women mathematicians you show to me.


            1. This way of thinking is a very American anti-materialist approach. “It’s all in your head! You can defeat anything with the power of positive thinking! People simply need to start thinking about things in a different way!” The world doesn’t work that way, though. There is a material reality that you can’t overcome with the power of your thinking process.


              1. At Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore 0.7% of graduating seniors are proficient in math and 2.8% are proficient in English. But I’m sure it can all be remedied if you let the students know that there are many brilliant black people somewhere in the world.


            2. “This is all magical thinking, folks.”

              Yes, indeed it certainly is.

              And, mandating the teaching of woke math to children is just the tip of the tip of the wokester policy iceberg in Ontario.

              Canada – where systemic wokesterism is living large (from coast to coast to coast).

              Wokesters, wokesters, über alles,
              Über alles in der Welt,

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Every private Christian school in the area where I live has record enrollments this year. They say they haven’t seen anything like it in all the years of their existence. And our public schools are open, so it’s not COVID. And it’s not likely that people suddenly became massively religious.

                I don’t understand how anybody who has actually read a single page of our new Illinois Board of Secondary Education guidelines can want to send their child to a public school. Klara’s tuition has already been cut by 40% before she even started kindergarten because there so many students that the school doesn’t need to charge as much.

                Liked by 1 person

              2. Remember that Oprah bestseller, The Secret? It was all “put a picture of a rich person holding a pile of money on the wall, stare at it every day, and you’ll condition yourself subliminally to become rich.” We all laughed at it. And now it’s official dogma. “Stare at a picture of a mathematician, and you’ll ace calculus!”

                You tell these stories anywhere else in the world, and people piss themselves with laughter. Even in medieval times it’s hard to find this sort of utterly superstitious thinking.


    3. Several things got mixed up here. There is nothing wrong with different solutions, as in solution process, that lead to the same correct answer. In math there usually is a correct answer, especially at the level of math taught at secondary schools. Math is not social science.
      In my experience, people who cannot deal with different solution process are the teachers. Once (or more than once) upon a time I explained things to my daughter in the way they were explained back in SU, and my daughter understood my explanations and was able to do her homework. But no, one is not supposed to arrive at the correct answer if it is not done exactly in the way teacher told to do it. My daughter is perfectly white, and she grew up in North America so for practical purposes English is her primary language. Problems like that have nothing to do with systemic racism, but with bad quality of teachers’ education. And “math is the vehicle of oppression” is not a proper solution to this problem. Not even one of several possible proper solutions to this problem.

      That said, there is nothing wrong with teaching kids about al-jabr… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The actual issue may be a history of only tracking white men of correct families into serious math, so as to exclude women and minorities, or the working classes, from the careers it can lead to. THAT would have been justified by saying only these guys can do it. And so then people believe it, and decide the problem is math itself, not exclusionary tracking in the schools of the past, or prejudice against certain students. It’s quite insidious, really, this.


    1. I calculated that if we got rid of our Vice-president for Diversity and Equity, we could pay for 10,000 hours a year of tutoring services at $15 an hour. We could tutor, many times over, every black student on campus who is failing math because he didn’t get good math education in high school. Instead, we cut all the tutoring, housed the math department in a dungeon (really, it looks hideous) and gave a gigantic, beautiful building to the new diversity office that is one of 3 diversity offices. Now the diversity folks get together and debate exclusionary practices ad nauseam while the number of black students who graduated in math is one in the last 5 years. One person. Out of the 16% who started the program.

      At my department, we found a way to provide free tutoring and guess what? Our black students are now graduating at much better rates. It’s absolutely not their fault that their shitty schools never taught foreign languages. But it’s a problem that can be solved. We are going about it in a stupid way instead of actually solving it, that’s the issue.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s not just Black students, it’s anyone who had a bad math or foreign language education, and many do. I’m so tired of people claiming it’s the fault of the subject matter. I had an administrator who said anything abstract was too hard for “these Cajun kids.”


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