Supporting the achievements of Aboriginal students in numeracy

In late December of 2016, Dr. Gale Russell was invited by the Student Achievement Support Unit within the Manitoba Ministry of Education to attend their second Mamtowisiwin session that was focused on supporting the achievement of Aboriginal students in the area of numeracy. By the end of an hour-long conversation with members of the unit, the invitation had extended from presenting on the first day of the two-day event, to offering a two-day workshop.

Gale accepted and presented a workshop on February 8 and 9, 2017. In attendance were over 140 school division directors, mathematics consultants/superintendents, Aboriginal consultants/superintendents, Manitoba Ministry of Education personnel, principals, vice principals, teachers, and preservice teachers.

Gale says, “It was a great two days, filled with lots of exploration and discussion of diverse, yet interconnected topics including: mathematics – what it is, what it could be, and what it should be; the Traditional Western and an Indigenous worldview, supporting Aboriginal students in mathematics, supporting all students in mathematics, and how to ‘deal with’ systemic factors beyond their control (such as standardized testing and grading policies. It was a time of seriousness, laughter, and even tears. And, everyone did their homework – both reading articles and counting squares. It was also a great pleasure to meet and work with the invited Elder for the two days, Florence Paynter, a retired educator and scholar, who shared many stories and much wisdom with the group.”

Since the workshop, Gale has been regularly receiving emails from attendees with specific and general questions, as well as an invitation to come and spend the day with the Manitoba Association of Mathematics Teachers on their PD day in October. Gale says, “I have happily accepted the invitation, and look forward to yet another experience of deep insights, thought-provoking discussions, and lessons to be learned, challenged, and unlearned.”

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