Archive for the ‘Math’ Category

Ethnomathematics: A Multicultural View of Mathematical Ideas

April 24, 2007

A ‘snippet’ from the book’s introduction:

Let us take a step toward a global, multicultural view of mathematics. To do this, we will introduce the idea of mathematical ideas of people who have generally been excluded from discussions of mathematics. The people are those who live in traditional or small-scale cultures; that is, they are, by and large, the indigenous people of the places that were “discovered” by Europeans.

The study of the mathematical ideas of traditional peoples is part of a new endeavor called ethnomathematics. Mathematicians and others are usually skeptical of newly coined fields, wondering if they have any substance. To answer this justifiable concern, we begin with quite specific mathematical ideas as they are expressed and embedded in some traditional cultures. Some of the peoples whose ideas are included are the Inuit, Navajo, and Iroquois of North America; the Incas of South America; the Malekula Warlpiri, Maori, and Caroline Islanders of Oceania; and the Tshokwe, Bushoong, and Kpelle of Africa. Only afterward will you find a discussion of the scope and implications of ethnomathematics and how it relates to other areas of inquiry.

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