Math Is a Verb: Activities and Lessons from Cultures Around the World

  • Math Is a Verb: Activities and Lessons from Cultures Around the World

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    By Jim Barta, Ron Eglash, Cathy Barkley

    “Mathematics is a verb! In Ute we do not have just one word to describe mathematics—rather, we name it as we use it. When we count, build, design, cook, hunt, or fish, we are doing mathematics.”—Fabian Jenks, a Northern Ute elder

    For most people, the word mathematics is a noun. But for many people in different cultures, mathematics is not simply something they learn in school but something they do as an intrinsic part of their everyday lives.

    This book is a guide for teachers who would like to enhance their mathematics instruction by integrating it with examples and activities from cultures throughout the world. It provides culturally situated examples, each linked to Common Core objectives that show how mathematics can be so much more than a story problem or an exercise in a worksheet with little or no context.

    The eleven chapters provide a range of activities from around the world that teach students key math concepts while introducing them to a diversity of cultures.

    For example:

    • In a Mayan village in Guatemala, students use math as a means to increase the traditional corn harvest 
    • Traditional symbols stamped on cloth in Ghana spark an exploration of geometry, measurement, and data analysis 
    • Embroidery patterns from Bulgaria can help younger students learn about patterns, and introduce older students to fractal geometry 
    • Klappenspiel, a popular classroom game in Germany, provides a fun application of probability analysis 

    Each chapter has activities for specific grade bands (K–3, 4–8, and 9–12), and all activities are designed to encourage students to discover connections among math concepts, world cultures, and their own daily lives and communities.

    About the Author

    Jim Barta is professor and dean of the College of Health Sciences and Human Ecology at Bemidji State University. He has served on the boards of several national math organizations, and he sponsors and participates in professional development for math teachers in rural communities around the world.

    Ron Eglash is a professor of science and technology studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is the author of African Fractals: Modern Computing and Indigenous Design, and his Culturally Situated Design Tools software provides students with math and computing education based on indigenous and vernacular arts.

    Cathy Barkley is an emeritus professor of mathematics at Colorado Mesa University, where she also served as an assistant vice president for academic affairs. She has taught art, science, and mathematics to all levels of students from K–16, and she still teaches her favorite course, “Ethnomathematics,”


    Product Details
    Stock # 14326
    ISBN # 978-0-87353-707-0
    Published 09/01/2014
    Pages 163
    Grades 3rd to 5th
    6th to 8th
    9th to 12th
    Pre K to 2nd