To the students that hate school

As a student growing up, I loved school. Not every class, and definitely not everyday. There were days when I would rather be anywhere else, and thanks to a mom who understood that not everything is about school there were a few days where I played hooky and went shopping instead. However, I was generally a good student, very involved, and for the most part really enjoyed my classes. I have great memories of me being in school, so when students say things like “I hate school”, or “I hate being here”. I find it a little frustrating. There has to be something that you like about school, and lunch does not count.

In my internship I made a huge effort to make sure even the students who said they hated school could say one thing at the end of the week that they enjoyed about school. In my first contract some of that effort faded. It didn’t just fade overnight, but it was slow and gradual because no matter how much effort I put into lessons, no matter how creative I was trying to be, no matter how much I connected the lessons to the students personal lives, I was met with bored faces and comments about how they hated school. Eventually I just stopped trying, I developed an understanding that there was nothing I could do, the group of students that I had just hated school. This never changed, and when I go back to sub at the school, I find the same attitude.

This brings me to this past week. Recently my boyfriends, a few friends, and I decided to go on a skiing/snowboarding trip in Big White, B.C.. Fun fact: I don’t ski. As a child I never learned, and the majority of the people I am with have been snowboarding or skiing since they were little and are very good. My first time down the mountain resulted in a whole lot of falling, frustration, tears, anger, and eventually I gave up and walked back down. It may be a coincidence that I hate skiing and that I am not good at skiing, but I have a strong belief that the two things are connected. It was about my eighteenth fall (this time it involved a tree, and another skier who was not paying attention), when I realized that my hatred for skiing, is probably what some students feel towards school.

However, just because I am a bad skier does not mean I have given up. I have taken additional lessons, and am slowly improving. However, my hatred of skiing has not ruined the trip. I have challenged myself in other ways. Those that know me, know that I hate heights, like absolutely petrified of them. So when I decided that I wanted to go ice climbing, I shocked pretty much everyone. Yet, I did it. Did I make it to the top, not even close, but I made it about three meters up, which for me was impressive. What is even more shocking is that I would go again.

Yes, I may hate skiing; just like some students hate school. But I am making the best of my experience because I know that the only way I can hate the whole time I am here is if I let the parts I don’t like ruin my overall experience. There are lots of parts of the trip I am super enjoying, and I will continue taking lessons until I become a more confident. Not every student is going to enjoy every lesson, topic, or subject but there is only so much teachers can do before it becomes the students responsibility to make some effort to make the most of their learning experience.

I now have a understanding for what it means to hate doing something, but I also know that just because I hate something that I am not good at does not mean over time I will learn to enjoy it as I improve my abilities. As students progress their abilities, they may also gain a new joy for school. Start with one thing that you can find enjoyment in, allow it to expand.

You can only fall so many time, before you finally stay upright down the hill. You can only fail at an understanding something so many times, before it is finally taught to you in a way that makes sense. Keep trying, because even if it doesn’t make sense, and does not seem easy it will be worth it in the end.


Reflections of Treaty Ed Camp 3.0

On Saturday October 24th 2017, I got up super early, came to the University of Regina where I joined 400 other educators, university students, and professors to learn about the importance of Treaty Education and integrating it into our teachings. I had two roles throughout the day; the first was as a session leader, and the second was as a learner.

I came to the day, as I have for the past two years prepared to take notes, fill my twitter feed, and discuss. As I look back at my notes, I cannot help but notice that I have only a few lines written down, and none of them are exactly inventive or outstanding; but yet I feel as if I took away more this year as I have in past years. At some point I stopped recording what was being said, and just started to listen and internally reflect on what was being said.

Charlene Bearhead was the keynote speaker, and she did a fantastic job. Not only did she demonstrate her understanding of why Treaty Education in Saskatchewan is so important but she also gave a viewpoint of how the rest of Canada sees Saskatchewan in connection to Treaty Education. Saskatchewan is viewed as being a leader in teaching Treaty Education, I would have never thought this until is was stated by Charlene Bearhead, I will elaborate on this later from a rural Saskatchewan point of view. Other things that Charlene made a point of mentioning was how using the Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Report to aid in our teaching, as well as to work with the whole community when teaching Treaty Education.

Since I have spent the past 6 years being a student at the University of Regina, I have a good understanding of how much emphasis there is on the importance of Treaty Education. I have also gotten to collaborate, and network with many fantastic and devoted teachers within the city of Regina who work hard to integrate Treaty Education into their teaching. However, I have spent my own primary and secondary education in rural Saskatchewan, as well as my internship and first teaching contract. In 2007, the Government of Saskatchewan mandated that Treaty Education be taught in all classes, to all grades. I was in Grade 6 when this was introduced, and yet it was not until my first year of university did I know that I lived on Treaty 4 land, I had no idea Residential Schools were a thing, and knew nothing about colonialism. It has been six years since I finished high school, yet the school I graduated from still has teachers who do not teach, or teach a limited amount of treaty education. The school I interned at did not have a large focus on treaty education. The thing is that this is not solely on the teachers, yes it is the teachers responsibility to teach treaty education, but where is the recognition of it being taught. There is no spot for Treaty ed on report cards, school divisions do not commonly have a treaty ed consulted like they do for literacy, math, other core subjects. I am sure there are many rural teachers who do teach treaty ed, who bring in Indigenous content, who focus on reconciliation, and I want to hear from them, to meet them, to collaborate with them. I am sure there are school divisions (for example Northern Lights School Division)  has a variety of great resources for Treaty education, but how many teachers use them, is there ownership of where schools and teachers are integrating treaty education? I know there is more work to be done with Treaty ed, and I am excited to see where we will be in five or ten years with it, but I am also aware that change will not happen without the push from government, school divisions, and fellow teachers.

After the Keynote speaker completed her presentation, it was time for our first session. It was in the first session that I was scheduled to lead. When I was first approached about leading a session, I actually did not feel like I was the right person to be teaching others. I am not currently under a contract, and did not teach a lot of treaty education in my first contract. However, I did use a lot of it in internship. I turned my own experiences, of dealing with resistance in rural communities into my topic. I expected to have maybe five people attend, especially considering there were so many great presenters and topics; I was shocked when I had a full room of like forty people. I was even more shocked when I realized people did not come to the room by mistake, or leave because they were bored. I have no idea if it was the fact that I am a young teacher, or because so many others are also struggling with resistance. The feedback I got back made me realize that while the university has a solid understanding of treaty education, not all their students do. My focus was on community resistance, but I also included personal resistance and I think that resonated with more students as many of them did not get taught treaty education during their schooling experience. By teachers choosing to not teach treaty education, it adds to the generations on confusion and secrecy surrounding the treaties and treatment of Indigenous people.

The discussions I had with many educators and students allowed me to find some comfort in knowing that there is a pedagogical change occurring. Teachers want to aid in the reconciliation of the country/province but they need to have access to support from administration, provincial/federal governments, as well as colleagues.

Charlene Bearhead stated that the rest of Canada looks to Saskatchewan and Manitoba for leadership with Treaty education; this is a responsibility we need to take seriously. It is well known that a single teacher can change a child’s life, that a single teacher can make a difference. Responding to the TRC calls to action, encouraging others to respond, and fighting for equality/equity and fairness is one of the many responsibilities of the teaching profession.

At the end of the day, we were asked to reflect on how we were going to contribute to reconciliation. The truth is I do not have an answer, there are hundreds of things that need to be done, things that I can do, and things that I cannot do. But to achieve the difficult, I have to start with something manageable. I have to pay attention to how I react to the treatment of Treaty 4 land. I have to learn to be uncomfortable in my teachings, to challenge my beliefs, and to allow my future students to experience their learning journey at their own pace, with guidance, not force. I hope that the thousands of educators in Saskatchewan join me in this journey.


Understanding Culturally Responsive Pedagogy in Mathematics-Finale post

At the start of the course I defined Culturally Responsive Pedagogy (CRP) as using teaching strategies that reflect the needs of students in a classroom. It would be easy to think of CRP meaning that you have a couple of questions related to the content of your students cultures, examples based on the “real world” and many a fluff assignment that has the students researching mathematics in their cultures based on the unit, toss in a bit of Indigenous content, dazzle it with a few pieces of language, and have a 30-second blip about historical content, mix all these together and BAM! you have a culturally responsive lesson. Right?! I mean what else can you be missing…well you might be missing authentic pieces of culture but its math a numbers are just numbers. You could also be missing out on traditional knowledge, respect of ways of knowing, and the importance of language, but none of this should matter because mathematics is the same regardless of where you learn it, 2+2 will always equal 4.

There are people who believe they use CRP, but they may be going about it in the wrong way. CRP is not something that is done without learning how to meet the needs of your students in an authentic, and purposeful way. During the past three weeks I have grown in three areas; authentic integration of culture, understanding global and historical perspectives of mathematics, and Indigenous education.

Authentic integration of culture come in two parts; recognizing tokenism and planning for deeper, meaningful lessons. Shana did an activity with us the second day, where we analyzed questions in math textbooks, providing evidence on the lack of culturally diverse views. When designing your lessons to have CRP, you need to think about the culture you are responding to, using ethnomathematics you can respond to different groups of students using activities, examples, and assessments that reflect cultures, interests, and hobbies.

Mathematics is taught all over the world and has been around since the beginning of time. But the mathematics taught around the world is not the same, in chapter one of “Culturally Responsive Mathematics Education” by Swetz (2009). Mathematics allows a variety of understandings to connect together to explain something or to solve a problem. Understand the history and historical connection behind mathematics provides students with a why, which gives meaning to the math they are learning.

Indigenous education was a big focus for me throughout the class. Two big pieces of Indigenous education are place-based learning and the use of stories in the classroom. While these two strategies are both thought of as Indigenous ways of knowing, they are beneficial and inclusive of all students learning styles.

CRP is when you respond to the needs of your students by understanding their culture and looking outside the traditional understanding of what mathematics is, pushing the boundaries of the box, and challenging your own ways of learning to push your students.

Swetz, F.J.,  (2009). In B. Greer et al., Culturally responsive mathematics education. (pp. 22) New York: Routledge.


Connections found between social justice and ethnomathematics in culturally responsive mathematics-to be marked

Culturally responsive education can be considered as five focal dimensions; Social Justice, Ethnomathematics, Indigenous education, Equity, and Linguistically Diverse Learners. Each one of the dimensions on its own is has unique place in a classroom, but they are very interconnected. The connections that I developed an understanding from on Monday’s class were the interrelatedness of social justice and ethnomathematics.

Using social justice in mathematics allows students to analyze, interpret, and acknowledge that there are injustices in the world. Some of these injustices directly impact your students, and others will have a limited idea or understanding what injustices are. Educating students on the injustices, and working together to arrive at possible solutions is how social justice is part of culturally responsive mathematics.

Social justice links to ethnomathematics by specifying your teaching towards a group of people, for example if you have a class of all Indigenous students, it would be best to design your lesson to the needs of your students, this can also be said for a group of students who are involved in farming with their families. This allows students to relate to mathematics in the themes and questions that relate to their lives, whether that is specifically dealing with personal struggles, ideals, and difficulties or dealing with injustices that are imposed on them by society.  Seeing the connections between social justice mathematics and ethnomathematics widens the understanding of what culturally responsive mathematics means.

In class we often discuss the overlap between the dimensions of culturally responsive mathematics,  but developing the understanding of each dimension will allow for a full understanding of the concept of culturally responsive mathematics. This can be the pedagogies with use, the lessons we teach, the examples that are used, the themes of our discussions, everything we do can be connected designed with ethnomathematics and social justice in mind.

How has looking at math differently helped me? -To be marked

In our Skype conversation this morning, Swapna stated that culturally responsive education is about “reclaiming the knowledge that has been suppressed, negated, and/or ignored”. Discuss this statement in relation to something you have learned/read so far in this class.

The first chapter of the textbook “Culturally Responsive Mathematics” gave me insight into so many different cultural and historical understanding of mathematics. On page 22, Swetz (2009) discussed different cultures explaining directions. North America Indigenous people use four dimensions of direction, North, South, West, East; these descriptions are recognized everywhere. China however has a fifth additional description which is here.

During grade 7 I hated, like to the point I would cry whenever translations were mentioned. I could never do them, they were always a mess, lucky they disappear in grade 10 and are never mentioned again. During internship I got the happy news that I would be teaching them to a group of students. Panic set in, anxiety attack happened, and I seriously thought about running out the door and never coming back. I then did the only sensible thing someone on internship could do, I started Googling tricks. After about three hours of stress, I had a unit planned out. The only thing I understood was that if I knew the starting coordinates, I should be able to mathematically solve me ending coordinates. This also meant that I should be able to visually know where my translation was going as long as I knew where it started. Not once when I was learning it did I understand to determine my starting point, I was always focused on my ending. In order to teach the math, I needed to relearn it in a way that I understood it. The knowledge was always there, but it was not given to me.

The class as a whole has given me a new meaning to what is “math”. Concepts from the textbook chapter readings, our class discussions, and additional readings have made me think about what math is, and what it can be. CRP is not about news math, but about redefining math in different contexts that relate to the students.

Swetz, F.J.,  (2009). In B. Greer et al., Culturally responsive mathematics education. (pp. 22) New York: Routledge.

The Culture of Mathematics- To be marked

How do we share with others (colleagues and students) that mathematics is actually not value- and culture-free? What are your thoughts on (and response to) this question?

When asked why I loved my in grade 12, I responded with “because no matter who you are, where you live, or the differences in your life, math is always the same, 1+1 will always equal 2”. Looking back I cannot believe how wrong I was, but I looking forward I can also not believe how much I have learned and how much learning I have left in my future.

Quinn gave us names and faces to the objections that come from colleagues and in some cases students. We will have people who say numbers are just numbers, that math has no culture, that nothing changes from country to country; all of these arguments can be heard across Canada and worldwide.

Part of advocating for social justice and ethnomathematics is understanding that there are people who will never agree with you. There are people who without hesitation will have the same teaching beliefs, and than there are people who can be convinced with evidence, readings, and logic. These people are the ones that you start with, these are the ones that you can influence to becoming culturally responsive in their pedagogy.

In order to convince people starting with the student who does not understand math, the student who will say “when am I going to use this”, “why does this matter”, “how is this going to help me in the real world”; using ethnomathematics and social justice gives meaning to the math.

Math is culture-free, this is will be true every time you ask the question, until you remove the box that surrounds the concept of math. Math shows progress, it shows growth, and it shows different concepts that are beneficial to students lives. Lindsay gave many examples to how many can be used for social justice, such as analyzing neighborhoods, using it to determine budgets, and understand injustices. Math can push the boundaries, but only if you are willing to think about the culture that guides, influences, and connects the math to life situations.

Math is a link between cultures, it is the link to inspiring those who is put down by societal norms and standards. Teachers who embrace the culture of math, are able to push learning in way beyond students meeting expectations.

Lesson Analysis Tool: Helping to create culturally responsive lessons-To be marked

I found that the lesson analysis tool to be quite insightful about what it means to have a culturally responsive lesson plan. There are aspect of a lesson plan I would not think to consider, simply because during my three years of creating lesson plans it was never suggested. The first one is asking the question “How does my lesson help students connect mathematics with relevant/authentic situations in their lives?” (Aguirre & Zavala, 2009). I may think about what outcome I am teaching, I usually do an activity showing real-life connection to introduce the topic to the class, but never think about how the topic connects to the students’ lives and communities. Even asking myself that question about some of the lessons that I have taught, I can see where I have gaps and what is needed for meeting the goal of having a culturally responsive classroom.

I think that before I start planning future units, I will first look at who my students are, then look at what resources/knowledge I have in my community. Finally, I will look at the outcomes/indicators of the unit to ensure I have met the requirements of the curriculum as well as the needs of my students.

One of the questions brought up in the class discussion today was how often the table and rubric would be used to evaluate lessons. I would love to say that I will use these strategies on all of my future lessons, but it took us almost an hour to get through one lesson, no teacher has time to spend an hour per lesson going over a rubric. I did like the suggestion as using the rubric to work on a Professional Growth Plan that includes culturally responsive pedagogy. This would allow cooperation with administration, colleagues, and in some cases students. While it may be difficult to use the rubric in full for every lesson I plan, I think it is fully possible to refer to the questions when planning lessons, every answering “Yes” or “No” for a sense of accomplishing the culturally responsive aspects of a lesson. Using the rubric and guiding questions will allow for teachers to become more fluent in creating culturally responsive lesson plans.

Aguirre, J. M., & Zavala, M. D. (2013). Making culturally responsive mathematics teaching explicit: a lesson analysis tool. Pedagogies: An International Journal, 8(2), 163-190. doi:10.1080/1554480x.2013.768518

Why do we teach Mathematics? -To be marked

The foreword of the book provides the readers with a focus of “analysis of the political dimension of the call for a cultural perspective on mathematics education” (D’Ambrosio, 2009, vii)). Right from the start, the writers indicate that a problem with mathematics education is to politics behind it. Curriculum is designed by a group of politicians and teachers, textbooks are supported by government, tests are designed by government, the way a classroom is operated has a lot to do with the expectations of the government. Capitalism is when a private group profits from a country’s trade and industry. I do not know what is more valuable than the development of a country’s youth. The companies who design the textbooks, the teaching materials and the resources available to the teachers are able to have a monopoly on students who have developed exactly as required for the businesses that need workers. There is a mindset that one must add one to one in order to get two, but no one thinks about what needs to be done in order to add one to one and get three. Math is viewed as essential, but people only need to be literate enough to make a society work (D’ Ambrosio, 2009, ix), how literate is “enough” has been determined by corporations who want workers not visionaries.  Mathematics is essential to society, however ensuring that students are getting teachings and knowledge that further their understanding and allow for creative thinking about the problems presented may result in essential members of society rather than followers of corporations. Teachers have two responsibilities, the first is teaching the mandated curriculum, and the second is providing students with a chance to become critical thinkers about the importance of the curriculum. This can only be done by educators who are willing to challenge what they believe as well as what the students believe.


D’Ambrosio, U., (2009). In B. Greer et al., Culturally responsive mathematics education. (pp.vii-xii) New York: Routledge.

My Starting Place

My journey in Mathematics started in Kindergarten, when I made a conscious decision to skip over all words that contained a R, because I couldn’t make the R sound. So when I counted I had 1,2,5,6,7,8,9,10…I couldn’t get past 14, but I would only say up to 12. Since I missed 3 and 4, teachers figured I could not understand how to count. Struggling in math continued until I was in Grade 11, when something clicked. I then found math so enjoyable that I decided to start with it as a minor in my secondary education degree. I eventually decided to switch into middle years education, but have always found math one of my favorite subjects to teach.

My friends always hated math, and they would tease me about why I like math so much, I always had what I thought was the perfect answer for this question. Math was always going to be the same, 1+1=2 no matter which country you were in, no matter what race, gender, abilities, or what is happening in your personal life.

The more classes I have taken in math, and the more I have taught math classes, the less I believe this. Math has so many different meanings, contexts, and interpretations. I am learning that math is more than a subject in school but also has valuable connections to worldwide paradigms and has the ability to bring cultures together. I am hoping that EMTH 425 enhances my understanding of the role that culture has on Mathematics, as well as the role that Mathematics has on culture.

PAA-Practical Applied Arts also known as Please Anticipate Accidents

With my first teaching contract, three of the classes I was assigned were Practical Applied Arts. The school I am at is great because it has a large woodworking shop, welding supplies, a full home ec room complete with three stations, and administration who was willing to help as needed. All of this is great…except I know nothing about PAA. I mean I took PAA in middle school, and I am very knowledgeable  about the school, but throughout the whole experience I felt completely out of my comfort zone.

My goal for the classes was that I would never have two classes based out of the same area, this would prevent any arguments about who is responsible for cleaning what, and anyone wrecking someone else’s work. In theory the plan is great…in reality this plan rarely worked. I started with having my PAA 30 class finishing the projects they started with their former teacher in the woodworking shop. PAA 9 was going to start with cooking, while the PAA 10 class did drafting. The biggest problem with this was that PAA 9 could not handle the responsibility of  cooking for more than 2 weeks, and the 10s did not take drafting seriously. Realizing a change of pace was needed I decided to go way out of my comfort zone…and guilt my dad, who is a welding instructor at Moose Jaw Sask Polytech, into teaching welding for a week, followed by three other experienced welders into coming in for two following consecutive weeks to help facilitate the actual welding. This means that I had to get all the supplies for welding, and contact people and actually have a general idea what was going on in the shop. Since I was offering this to one class, I figured that I would offer it to all classes. That was until the grade 10s complained so much two weeks in  that I cut their short, and decided to switch them to baking. I felt throughout the whole semester that I was changing the units every time the students started to get difficult. Part of this was to keep them entertained, part of it was to keep myself sane, and part of it was to keep the rest of the staff happy as I seemed to always be in the way.

During my time teaching PAA I took on the following projects,

PAA 30

  1. individual woodworking projects
  2. welding pencil holders
  3. Group woodworking creation
  4. Cooking
  5. building a shed

PAA 10

  1. drafting
  2. welding pencil holders
  3. baking
  4. CO2 cars
  5. cooking


  1. cooking
  2. welding pencil holders
  3. CO2 cars
  4. wildlife management

During the units, many things happened that I was not prepared for, like having 4 drafting sticks be broken by other students, which halted my drafting unit for a few classes while I found more. I was not prepared for regularly blowing the breakers during my welding unit, or to have a valve leakage which means by oxy-acetylene welding was going to be only stick and mig welding. Every class I got to face an unanticipated situation, some caused by students, some caused by equipment, and some caused from me still figuring things out. Teaching students to respond to accidents that happen while working with tools and dangerous equipment, was one of the lessons I value most, because while you hope that a student will never have to deal with a dangerous situation as a result of human error or faulty equipment.

With every class I learnt something new, with every class I wondered what I was doing, and at the end of every unit I figured out what I liked, what I hated, and how I would do it differently. Even though I started having no idea what I was doing, I actually enjoyed what I was doing. I would be quite happy teaching PAA again, and actually look forward to having the opportunity.