Online Professional Development Sessions
Hands Down, Speak Out: Exploring the Crossover between Math and Literacy Talk
Presented by Kassia Omohundro Wedekind and Christy Thompson
Come learn about Hands-Down Conversations, a structure for dialogue in which students take the lead, building agency and understandings as mathematicians and readers. We’ll dig into strategies for engaging in argumentation and explore the crossover between the content areas.
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Modelling Care through Mathematical Routines
By: Hema Khodai (@HKhodai)
The thread linked above is reflective of teachings in
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Amid protests by hundreds of non-Indigenous fishermen, a First Nation in Nova Scotia, Canada launched its own self-managed commercial fishery on September 17, 2020 and issued five lobster licenses to its own members.
Mi’kmaw Chiefs have declared a State of Emergency which may be extended by the time you read this article. Trina Roache, a video journalist with APTN Investigates reports, “This is a story about how Canada handles treaty rights.”
In August of 1993, Donald Marshall Jr., a Mi’kmaq man from Membertou, Nova Scotia, caught and sold 210 kg of eel with an “illegal” net and without a licence during closed-season times. He was charged, arrested, and found guilty under the federal Fisheries Act and the Maritime Provinces Fishery Regulations in provincial court (1996) and appeals court (1997).
On September 17, 1999 the Supreme Court of Canada reversed Marshall’s conviction in a landmark ruling in Indigenous treaty rights. The Supreme Court recognized the hunting and fishing rights promised in the Peace and Friendship Treaties which were signed between the British and the Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik, and Peskotomuhkati in 1760–61.
Video clip of a news segment aired on September 18, 2020
(Use the drop down in the upper left corner of the video feed to see 9/18)
It has been 21 years and Canada hasn’t implemented the Marshall decision which said the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy bands in Eastern Canada could hunt, fish and gather to earn a “moderate livelihood”. Why? The court followed up with a clarification two months after the initial ruling, saying the treaty right was subject to federal regulation.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans only started meeting with First Nation communities covered under the 1760-61 treaties in late 2017 to define what a moderate livelihood fishery means. Meanwhile, Mi’kmaw fishermen continue to fight the same fishery charges their fathers faced 20 years ago.
So, the Sipekne’katik First Nation developed its own management plan for a moderate livelihood fishery and kicked it off with a ceremony on the wharf in Saulnierville. The chief handed out the first license to Randy Sack, the son of the late Donald Marshall, Jr., and the Mi’kmaq headed out into St. Mary’s Bay to drop their lobster traps. The band’s management plan including conservation regulations has been submitted for approval to the federal Fisheries department.
Non-Indigenous fishermen are using intimidation tactics like following them, shooting flares, cutting traps, burning boats, smashing cars, in “protest” of the “illegal” fishery which is “out of season”. Canadian government officials are urging “calm” and “understanding” and expect resolutions that respect “the laws of this country.”
Writing for the Global Math Department Newsletter has become a family affair in the Khodai household. Every third Sunday, my husband and child find me scowling into my laptop screen, furiously typing away, and often mumbling about the injustices that go unobserved and unnamed. Their breakfast preparations and routines are interrupted by my punctuated exclamations of, “Listen to this!” as I share something I have learned, another puzzle piece that is correctly fitted to form a more complete picture of racism on this continent.
This particular Sunday morning, my husband asks, “What do Mi’kmaw fishermen on the East Coast have to do with Math?”
My prickly response is, “What doesn’t it have to do with Math?”
What he’s really asking (and I’m tired of answering) is how will I convert this into a math lesson? What connection will I make to the curriculum? What practical skill will I teach through this story? Will we count the number of lobster in the sea? I am more interested in these questions: How do we define “moderate”? Who should define “moderate”? Who sets the standards of “livelihood”? What are the geographic boundaries of the First Nations covered in the treaties?
Is antiracism not within the domain of Math? Isn’t that the issue? That we continue to divest ourselves with all the formal education, and ‘rigorous’ training in scientific thought and advanced mathematical modeling, from justice and love?
The conflict is about a definition of what a moderate livelihood means to Mi’kmaw people. It is about imposing standards of time (seasons) on peoples whose lives are not constructed in seasons. It is about imposing capitalistic ideals on peoples who have been and remain water walkers and stewards of the land. Peoples whose lands WE have settled on. Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs Co-Chair Terrance Paul says the DFO should be educating the general public on the treaty right to a moderate livelihood fishery instead of harassing Indigenous fishermen exercising their treaty rights. We proclaim in our land acknowledgements that we are all treaty people, but is anyone honouring the treaties?
We are all treaty people.
I sign off with this sharp reminder from my brilliant friend, Muna.
References are hyperlinked and additional resources are linked below.
Mi’kmaw language instructor Curtis Michael, of Sipekne’katik First Nation in Nova Scotia, takes us through a few lessons on the language of the Mi’kmaq
I had the opportunity to visit the U.S. Supreme Court this past Saturday. When I arrived, a small crowd and several news crews had gathered in front of a barrier erected to prevent visitors from climbing up the broad steps leading up to the building’s entrance. I walked around, reading sidewalk chalk messages of love, hope, and loss, while listening to a group of visitors engaging in prayer. Off to the side were dozens of flowers set up in a memorial.
I am grieving the loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, including this loss for her family and friends and for the country. I am grieving the fragility of a political system that can so radically be altered by this event.
I am grieving the conditions of teaching and learning that are separate from, but are experienced alongside, my political anxieties.
I am grieving the lack of communication, preparedness, and compassion demonstrated by schools, which have caused many teachers and students to withdraw from education in various ways.
I am grieving the racial and ecological crises that have worsened in the past year. I grieve the fact that although these crises have raised a greater need for compassion and justice-oriented education, education continues to be mired in concerns over standardization, global competitiveness, and efficiency.
I am grieving in the midst of demands on me as a student and teacher. How can I find time, space, and energy to grieve? To what extent do educational institutions allow teachers to sit with and process their grief? In The Disenfranchised Grief of Teachers
, Louise Rowling talks about the ways teachers are positioned as supportive adults who can support the grieving of young people. This expectation of them is often centered around issues of control, including an often unstated obligation to control personal grief reactions for the sake of their professional role. The result is a disenfranchisement of teachers’ grief.
Teaching is being
. This is one of the reasons I changed careers to enter into teaching. I was looking for a profession that I could pour my being into and that would ask me to awaken my mind, heart, and soul. I see now that this fullness of teaching is inherently neither good nor bad. In the words of Paulo Freire, teaching has helped me raise my consciousness and become more aware of the systems that oppress me, my students, and my communities. However, at some point, teaching became so all-consuming that I’ve had to take a break (by getting a doctorate, no less).
To the extent we bind ourselves to our teaching practice willingly and on our own terms, the teaching profession is hard yet liberating. But when an equivalence between teaching and being is imposed on us from the outside–as is the case when administrators, politicians, and society asks teachers to sacrifice themselves because they are “heroes”–then teaching can become dehumanizing. And this becomes just another hurdle that teachers have to resist.
What does this all mean for the politics of education? Normalize teachers’ vulnerability with their students. Pay teachers more. Fix the buildings. Stop pushing a romanticized vision of teaching for personal or political gain. Teaching is messy, uncertain, and riddled with disagreement and difference. Make room for grief, and let that grief be a part of what teachers and students share in their classrooms.
A Pitch for Intellectual Play
In the midst of the pandemic and a myriad of political issues, today, I’m writing about self-care.
How much have you played recently? It’s the beginning of the school year, and things are different, harder, take longer, and more hectic. Still, when was the last time that you played?
And, in particular, when was the last time that you took the time for yourself to engage in intellectual play that might renew and re-energize your interest in mathematics and teaching mathematics?
I recently finished the book, The Second Kind of Impossible: The Extraordinary Quest for a New Form of Matter by physicist Paul Steinhardt, and it was a much needed energizer for my work, although I am not a physicist nor do I teach physics. This book gave me greater insight into the nature of mathematics and theoretical physics — it sparked my wonder and curiosity and the power of those disciplines, and reinvigorated my passion for sparking joy in the mathematical experiences of mathematics learners.
I know that taking the time to do this is important, even when it is hard to find the time amidst all the chaos of work, family, housekeeping, and exercise, especially when TV is so easy. Yet, somehow, I’ve found that I’m less overwhelmed when I slow down, skip TV (or delay it), have a routine, and engage in intellectual play.
Here are some suggestions to get you started: “RECREATIONAL MATHEMATICS”
- Read a chapter from a STEM novel. You won’t regret the time.
- Head over to www.cpm.org/play and check out “Tom’s Problems.” These problems are fun and doable, very open-ended, and not a pinch. I’ve done a few myself and always feel a sense of curiosity and have multiple (sometimes premature) ah-ha moments that make me remember why I love mathematics. If you have a partner who wants do these with you or some friends who would enjoy doing together them over a video call (I know…), the collaboration makes it 10 times more fun. None of these problems require complicated mathematics, so you might even consider inviting a teen in your house to think through these with you (but only if that keeps it fun)!
- Talk math with your kids. Or just build a tower or cook with them, using a recipe to experiment with quantity and proportion. Being interested in their thinking is the fun part!
- Do some mathematics that remind you of that experience of mathematical uncertainty — embrace the ambiguity and allow yourself to explore different paths that may fizzle out as unproductive. Here are some places to find fun, mind-stretching problems… Maybe best done with a cozy beverage, especially if you live in a zone where the fall chill is setting in:
- Do some geometric puzzles! Here’s some by Catriona Agg and some more by Ed Southhall.
- Try out some cryptarithms for beginners or try more complex ones!
- Join a Math Teachers Circle (here’s one in San Jose), or create your own!
Maybe engaging in this kind of mathematical play will help you in your teaching, or maybe not (but, it probably will). Either way, that’s not the point of this post. In my opinion, intellectual play is what helps us move beyond feelings of surviving to feelings of thriving. Right now, the world needs people who are thriving. It can’t hurt to try!
Lara Jasien (@LaraJasien)
Researcher at CPM Educational Program
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