Posted in ECS 210

Math and Inuit ways of Knowing

When I was in school, the one phrase that I heard most in math class was “that’s not the way you are supposed to do it. Do it the way I taught you”. I had very good grades throughout school and I was good at listening to my teachers, but math was the one subject that I got the most push back in. I had the right answers, but did not have the “right” process. My teachers wanted me to do math the way that they were teaching, not the way that made the most sense to me. This caused a lot of frustration on both ends until usually my teacher gave up and just told me to at least show my work if I wasn’t going to do it their way. This frustration though was the thing that drove me away from math the most. I used to love math but being frustrated is something that I couldn’t handle and it eventually led me down a path that completely strayed from math. Now I have accepted it and I’m happy with where my path has led, but it was super upsetting at the time that math had gone from something that I enjoyed to something so upsetting. This felt slightly oppressive at the time but now as an educator I get it. I understand why they were trying to get me to do it that way.

Poirier’s article was super interesting and I had no idea about the way that Inuit peoples did math and how it differed from our ways of knowing. It truly gave me a new outlook on the ideas of math that have been so deeply ingrained in me.

  1. Instead of seasons, they talk about the things happening around them. Such as when they hunt animals, when to walk on the ice, or when flowers are blooming
  2. They would use parts of their body to measure when they needed to make clothes.
  3. Using base 20 instead of base 10.

These are just three ways that the Inuit ways of knowing vary from eurocentric ways of knowing and allow for a interesting and new understanding. If these were introduced in a eurocentric society my guess is that people would be very confused and possibly even upset that this is what was brought up. I think that is a very interesting idea.


I guess what I am left still wondering is what would happen if these ways of knowing and these ideas about math were brought into Canadian society and how people would react.



HI! I am a second year Education student at the University of Regina. I am a secondary education student with a major in Social Studies and a minor in English. On the side, I also work as a lifeguard and swimming lessons instructor. This blog will be a showcase of my teaching portfolio as it is built over my four years of university and beyond.

3 thoughts on “Math and Inuit ways of Knowing

  1. Thank you for sharing your experiences with math. Since it is such an oppressive way of teaching how will you change that within your own classroom so that students do not feel as you had. Using your way of knowing how can we move away of only have the one “right “answer?


  2. Hi,
    I am sorry to hear that you got steered away from math because of teachers only allowing for one way to get the right answer. I believe that has changed or is starting to because my teacher allowed and even encouraged us to do it their way if they could show their work. The tricky thing with that was if we did not arrive at the right answer that way we would get a zero. I also think it is very interesting the differences between the two.

    What do you think is the solution to intertwining these two ways of knowing?


  3. Hey Briana,

    I’ve had a very similar outlook on math like you during high school. Math became something I hated despite taking as many as available courses to hone my skills.

    Because there is the insistence to conform to one way of solving problems, how will you as an educator address these differences in the classroom? Will you try to impose one way of doing things? Or would you try to incorporate different styles even though it might be a huge hurdle or gap to bridge?

    I feel like many students are turned away from math for similar reasons and simply get too discouraged that even though they may have developed their own breakthroughs, they are ultimately denied any gratification by being labelled as invalid.

    Overall, I really connected with your blog, thanks for sharing!

    – John Nguyen


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