Enhancing Inter-Cultural Mathematics Teaching Competencies: What Must Mathematics Teachers Do?

Enhancing Inter-Cultural Mathematics Teaching Competencies: What Must Mathematics Teachers Do?

Judah Paul Makonye (University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6158-3.ch001
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In the global village we live today, inter-cultural competencies are imperative for mathematics teachers if their teaching is to cater for all learners in their classrooms. The author argues that intercultural competency is the key to helping such mathematics learners achieve their potential. Content analysis is done to find out what inter-cultural competencies are required of mathematics teachers to be able to handle diverse learners. Data was also collected through observation in a class that the author taught at an ITE to find out what occurs when the researcher puts in aspects of students' diversity in teaching mathematics. The findings show that inter-cultural competency is improved through teachers' self-introspection of their practices and presumptions about other cultures, including learners' diverse cultures in the curriculum, learning about non-verbal communication in different cultures, learning about the modes of learning in different cultures, studying the power of teachers in different cultures, handling conflicts in different cultures, and others.
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Imagine the story given in Figure 1.

One asks; Would not a similar scenario occur in a mathematics classroom with learners from diversified backgrounds? Figure 1 illustrates the constant dilemmas that teachers encounter daily as they teach learners from multi-cultural backgrounds; a single problem begetting different answers. Yet all answers are correct depending on the cultural basis of respondents. It highlights the need for developing cultural competence for all teachers including mathematics teachers who teach mathematics across the globe.

Figure 1.



Purpose And Research Question

This book chapter interrogates and discusses pre-service teacher education strategies that enhance global mathematics teaching and learning through intercultural competence. How can teacher education promote intercultural awareness and intercultural competencies in preservice mathematics teachers?

Many factors affect learners’ achievement in mathematics at least, from the learners’ side and from the teachers’ side but these are still not enough. For teachers, delivery of adequate subject matter knowledge is important but might not be sufficient to inculcate learners’ understanding of mathematics (Makonye, 2012). For learners, Ayotola and Adedeji (2009)’s research found that a learner’s gender, age, mental ability, anxiety and mathematics self-efficacy could affect their mathematical achievement. This researcher would like to focus more on the anxiety and mathematics self-efficacy factors. These factors particularly affect learners’ mathematical achievement in multi-cultural classrooms that consists of diverse learners. I argue that teachers’ cultural competency in such classrooms helps to humanise the learning environment and allay minority learners’ anxieties and so increases their learning mathematics self-efficacies. I ask; What are the mathematics teacher’s cultural competence critical in the teaching and learning of mathematics in a multi-cultural classroom? If a teachers’ cultural competence is important in helping learners learn mathematics better, to what level are current pre-service teachers or serving teachers equipped for this cultural competence that could enhance mathematical achievement of all their learners? For example, Pewewardy (1993) has argued that one of the reasons Indian children (who are a minority in the USA) encounter difficulties in schools is due to the fact that educators for a long time attempted to infuse culture into education, instead of infusing education into the culture of the Indian children. Here is a problem where educationists want the Indian children to assimilate western education versus western education assimilating Indian learners’ culture at least in the schools.

It is argued that the problems of multi-cultural education is caused by discontinuities between home and school culture. This occurs as learners fail to apply ways of doing things at home productively in school set ups or fail to ‘do school’ (Pope, 2001) as they cannot interpret school rules using home culture lenses. The converse is equally true in that teachers also fail to interpret how these diverse learners interpret contexts that arise in school. Therefore, bridging the gap, filling the chasm between home and school culture is most important and needs to be negotiated if all learners are to learn mathematics successfully (Rosemberg, Stein & Alam, 2013). This chasm, caused by the dual and often ununderstood relationship between home and school, is seen as the basis of the educational struggles of African Americans (Pewewardy, 1993). Furthermore, Hollins and King (1994) reported that African American learners regarded schools as hostile places where they could not ‘be themselves’ as when they tried to do so, they are were ridiculed.

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