UH West Oʻahu embarks on ethnomathematics curriculum project

Will improve mathematics education statewide

University of Hawaiʻi-West Oʻahu
Julie Funasaki Yuen, (808) 454-4870
Public Information Officer, Public Relations and Marketing Department
Posted: Jun 21, 2010

Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology’s Coconut Island in Kaneohe Bay field study participants
Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology’s Coconut Island in Kaneohe Bay field study participants
The University of Hawai‘i–West Oʻahu will host an “Ethnomathematics Curriculum Project” on campus this summer with funding from the University of Hawai‘i Office of Student Equity Excellence and Diversity and the National Science Foundation. The Ethnomathematics Curriculum Project will bring together University of Hawai‘i mathematics faculty, students and staff from various campuses to design and implement math lessons grounded in the ethnic, socioeconomic, historical and cultural diversities of Hawai‘i.
The designed curriculum will be used to supplement core math education courses in areas of geometry, statistics, algebra and number foundations, the primary competencies needed by math teachers to be deemed “highly qualified” by the Hawai‘i Teachers Standard Board. By drawing on personal and professional experiences, the participants will produce curriculum and lesson plans that will be compiled into a textbook to be used by current and future math teachers in Hawai‘i. The materials will be published and distributed to the student and faculty participants, math department chairs at University of Hawai‘i campuses, local media, and the Polynesian Voyaging Society, as well as presented at national and local conferences.
“Ethnomathematics plays an important role in helping students identify with important concepts in math,” said Gene Awakuni, chancellor, UH West O‘ahu. “These are the very same concepts that paved the way to many navigational and scientific advances in Hawaiian culture and those of other island cultures throughout the Pacific.”
The Ethnomathematics Curriculum Project also includes two field studies, based on real world applications of mathematics, to the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology’s (HIMB) Coconut Island in Kaneohe Bay and the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. The project team recently visited these locations to learn about cultural traditions, natural resources, environmental conservation and math applications in marine biology research in Hawai‘i.
“When we respect and honor all students’ invention, experience, and applications of math, we provide them with lifelong skills and an equal opportunity for access and achievement,” said UH West O‘ahu Assistant Mathematics Professor and Ethnomathematics Curriculum Project Principal Investigator Dr. Linda Furuto. “An understanding of ethnomathematics allows teachers to expand their math perceptions and more effectively instruct students in a growing school climate of diversity, one that is particularly present in the State of Hawai‘i and at UH West O‘ahu.”
As part of the Hokule‘a training crew for the worldwide voyage in 2013, Dr. Furuto spent a week voyaging with educators to some of Hawai‘i’s unique and sacred locations to study the connections between mathematics and culture. Some of the highlights included incorporating algebraic matrics while diving the north coast of Moloka‘i, discovering geometric properties in the highest sea cliffs in the world at Kalaupapa settlement, and analyzing trigonometric applications with the navigational star compass at Honokanai‘a, Kaho‘olawe.
Furuto is also responsible for creating the UH West O‘ahu No‘eau Math Center through a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Islands of Opportunity Alliance-Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation program. The center enhances the student experience at UH West O‘ahu through a culturally sensitive mathematics curriculum and combines academic mentoring with personalized tutoring and real-world application.
About UH West O‘ahu
UH West O‘ahu became a four-year, regional comprehensive university when it served its first class of freshmen in fall 2007. The University offers quality education, small classes and personalized attention at convenient locations. Construction is set to begin in August 2010 on the first phase of a new, state-of-the-art UH West O‘ahu campus in the City of Kapolei. It is expected to serve more than 2,750 students for spring 2012 classes. For more information, visit http://www.uhwo.hawaii.edu, http://www.twitter.com/uhwestoahu, http://www.facebook.com/uhwestoahu or call 454-4700 or toll-free (866) 299-8656.