Indigenising University Mathematics

Reimagining the Living Present

"Reimagining the living present" is about finding genuine ways for Indigenous people and Mathematicians/Maths-departments to work together and share knowledge in both directions in respectful ways. Kathy Butler, Tammy Small, and Mark MacLean lead this theme. All are leaders in this area. Kathy Butler is the Director of the Wollotuka Institute. Tammy Small is Manager for Indigenous Advancement at the University of Wollongong. Mark MacLean has been deeply engaged in this endeavour at UBC, where he has been a leader in the undergraduate Mathematics teaching program and is on the board of Governors.

A video sharing some of the UBC context for ideas in this session is available here


There are some who believe that mathematics is a universal language that, on the one hand, describes abstract structures and the relationships between them, and on the other hand, can be used to describe real world phenomena.

Is this a notion of European colonizers?

How do Indigenous peoples see, know, and experience mathematics?

Mathematics education was used a tool of colonization (and genocide) in the residential schools built in Canada and Australia to assimilate Indigenous children, children who were removed from their families and communities and forbidden to speak their Indigenous languages and continue their Indigenous knowledge and practices.

How, then, can mathematics be seen as a “universal” language?

There has been a fallacy in Western education systems, including in Australia and Canada, to present and consider Indigenous peoples as historical in the adopted curricula and pedagogies in these systems.

In what ways can we replace this fallacy with the truth that Indigenous peoples have knowledge and pedagogies rooted deep in their long histories and still vibrant and relevant in the present?

How do living Indigenous knowledge and practices and Indigenous pedagogies inform the work to Indigenize university mathematics education?