In this article I found at :
Ethnomathematics is described as – the mathematics present in the cultural forms of an ethnic group.
Here is a quick summary of activity they did with elementary age students, entitled “Learning fractions by making patterns – An Ethnomathematics based approach.” Kids are taught about fractions by doing tiling. Its tied into South Indian “Kolams. ” which use graph theory ideas and traditional floor patterns that show tessellations. The students have to create patterns with a grid and a toolbox of tiles. When completed they note the different amounts of different tiles used as compared to the whole area tiled. After completing this type of task, the students did very well on their fractions test which they had done poorly on prior to the task.
Technology can easily be utilized here because creating patterns on a computer is very common and fairly simple to do. Children can color coordinate. You could use a spread sheet and have kids start with it being blank . The activity could be using 5 different colors to create a pattern within the spreadsheet. The students would enjoy coming up with their own design and you can absolutely start a get fractions discussion from this! And, they'd be introduced to a spreadsheet. Next, we'd be counting each color, the whole amount of tiles used and how that turns into fractions.
If I wanted to move this into an ethnomathmatic lesson, I’d say I’d talk about something like “subway tile.” Something Americans can relate to…part of our history and plain old excel spreadsheet can even be made to replicate tiles that are sized and shaped more like subway tile.
I really love this idea of relating math concepts to your heritage. I know its always easier for me to learn something if I can find a way to relate to it. Being able to go online and find images and games and examples of so many different historical facts and stories makes the math come to life. If the student may not use this particular math concept, its great to see how their grandfather, or cousin, or neighbor may have used it for something significant.
As far as globalizing math, in order to better communicate research, science, any kind of information and have it in the same format…whether its math or English or whatever, there is something to be said for keeping things consistent. I believe, our ability to be willing to learn a universal language of math globally is important for the us to grow as people. We should share information and solve global issues in a way that remains consistent…without loss during translation. This doesn’t mean we throw away the wonderful languages, maths and traditions we have grown accustomed to. I do so wish that us prideful Americans hadn’t thrown the whole metric system out the window....what were we thinking??
As educators, we have to keep this in mind. Just like incorporating our heritage will help us relate to the math, giving our students an understanding of the global math world that is out there is truly important as well.