Connecting Math to Our Lives and Communities
The 2015-2016 academic year saw the implementation of a pilot project entitled “Connecting Math to Our Lives and Communities” through St. Francis Xavier University’s Faculty of Education and Mathematics Department. The program was designed for students in grades 7 through 12 as a means to encourage youth to examine and investigate the value of mathematics in their lives and develop an appreciation for how mathematics can have power to shape their futures. Through such learning, students are supported and encouraged to participate in further studies in mathematics and science, and develop an increased confidence in their mathematical abilities as well as provide opportunities for students to see that mathematics can be a powerful tool for helping the world.
Connecting Math to Our Lives and Communities was run in four Mi’kmaw and two African Nova Scotian communities in Eastern Nova Scotia. The program brought StFX Bachelor of Education students and undergraduate science and math students into the communities biweekly to explore topics of interest to the youth. Project work focused on reading and writing the world with mathematics through the explorations of social justice issues such as water security and the environment, to patterns and logical reasoning, including technology and coding.
In total, 29 sessions were held, with attendance reaching over 180 participants. While the program was designed for students in grades 7-12, interest from students in the communities caused us to expand the grade levels to include grades 5 and 6. Feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive, offering descriptions of the program as fun, interesting, and a good learning experience. As one students said, “It is an interesting program. Every kid or teen would enjoy this. It makes you learn and it is fun.”
A successful final celebration day was held on campus Saturday, April 2, which brought 50 students together with community leaders, Elders, and university faculty to share traditional knowledge and make mathematical connections. Students participated in morning workshops in basket making, beading, quillwork, storytelling, games, Waltes, and Physics where links to math were explored. In the afternoon, an Amazing Math Race allowed students to explore campus while learning new math concepts and consolidating what was learned throughout the program.
Planning is now underway for the continuation and expansion of the program. Anyone with questions about or interest in the program may wish to contact Lisa Lunney Borden (firstname.lastname@example.org), Tara Taylor (email@example.com) or Robert van den Hoogen (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Check out some resources you can use to help making connections to social justice issues in your own math class.