School of Education
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Math in a Cultural Context (MCC) is a long-term and ongoing set of interrelated federally funded projects. Central to MCC is its long-term collaboration with Yup’ik elders, teachers, and Alaskan school districts to develop culturally based curricular materials, especially supplemental math curriculum for elementary school students. At this time, MCC has published ten different supplemental math modules: three at the second grade, one for grade 3-5, and six at the sixth grade (most of these are applicable to 7th grade students). The modules also include supporting materials such as DVD clips of teachers’ implementing exemplary lessons, written case studies, a Guide to Implementing MCC, literacy activities and stories that develop cultural, mathematical, and contextual connections for students.
Most importantly, most MCC modules have been tested using either a quasi or experimental design with findings repeatedly showing that MCC students outperform comparable control group students who use their regular math curriculum. This occurs at statistically significant levels and with moderate effect sizes. For further information, please see the 44(3): 1-100, December 2005 and for more recent data see Journal of American Indian Education 46(3):94-116 which includes the results of our most rigorous study to date. Again, the second grade students in this study outperformed their control group counterparts on key subscales such as measuring, representation (graphing and tables), grouping, and place value. This occurred in urban districts and rural districts; novice and experienced teachers using MCC each outperformed novice and experienced teachers using control group materials. This reform-oriented curriculum, designed for Alaskan students, is one of the few curricula that has been so extensively studied and meets the highest research standards. It is one of the very few projects and studies for Alaska Native and American Indian (AN/AI) students that shows such powerful results.
At the present time, MCC has two distinct and interrelated projects that are open to a limited number of school districts in Alaska. The first grant is funded by the US Department of Education and is entitled Measuring Proportionally: Elders' Wisdom applied to Teaching and Learning Math. This project develops elementary school mathematics curriculum based on Indigenous ways of thinking and doing. Measuring proportionally is one of the very few programs that use Indigenous Knowledge, ways of thinking and doing, in the teaching of a core academic content area (mathematics). Alaska Native students and students in general underperform when compared to their international counterparts in measuring, ratios, and fractions. Thus, Measuring Proportionally recognizes the unique contribution that Alaska Native Knowledge can play in teaching elementary school mathematics. This project has the potential to improve the mathematics performance of Alaska Native students, but it also has the possibility of strengthening the mathematical thinking of all students.
Guiding Principles of the Measuring Proportionally program:
- Sustainability—we will recruit and prepare Alaska Native educators and other long-term stakeholders within the school community to ensure the knowledge gained from this project stays in the targeted schools and communities.
- Working together—collaborating with Alaska Native knowledge holders, Alaska Native organizations, school district personnel—superintendents, teachers, and paraprofessionals, working with the Measuring Proportionally staff to develop innovative materials and approaches to teaching mathematics.
- Appreciating Alaska Native culture—Because the foundation of this program begins with Indigenous Knowledge and how that knowledge establishes a mathematical learning trajectory (symmetrical measuring/splitting), Indigenous Knowledge is respected and honored.
- Culturally Competent Teachers—Connectedness—We seek to develop teachers who can teach mathematics through Indigenous Knowledge in a mathematically and culturally authentic way.
The second grant is funded by the National Science Foundation and is entitled The Potential Contribution of Indigenous Knowledge to Teaching and Learning Mathematics. The National Science Foundation grant provides deep insights into Indigenous Cultural Knowledge including Alaska Native elders as well as Indigenous knowledge holders from Greenland, Norway, Kamchatka (Russia), and Yap.
- To improve the math performance of elementary school students, especially Alaska Native students
- To provide professional development to Alaskan school districts
- For school districts to adapt and adopt MCC modules
- To research the effectiveness of the modules in improving students’ math performance
- Study specific impacts by math subscales and by other factors
- To study contextual factors that contribute to the effectiveness of implementing MCC
- To expand an already existing data base on MCC
- Further develop professional development materials including
- A Guide for using MCC
- Case Studies
- Video clips of effective implementation