Teaching Artful Expressions of Mathematical Beauty: Virtually Creating Native American Beadwork and Rug Weaving

Teaching Artful Expressions of Mathematical Beauty: Virtually Creating Native American Beadwork and Rug Weaving

Jim Barta (Utah State University, USA) and Ron Eglash (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-352-4.ch016
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Students who may typically view mathematics as a sterile and disjointed subject are learning new skills and concepts using a suite of virtual design tools to create artful expressions. Students being instructed in the use of these tools can artistically explore artifacts illustrating several Native American cultures as they learn mathematical concepts and apply them to replicate the art or create their own interpretations. Readers of this chapter will gain insights into cultural definitions of “art”, “mathematics”, and “technology” in various Native American communities, culturally effective instruction for Native American students, the role of technology in enhancing mathematical understanding of students using Native American Art (bead and loom work, wampum, and rug weaving), and illustrative applications of technology connecting art and mathematics instruction using virtual design tools.
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Native American Students And Culturally Effective Instruction

School, as a vital aspect of everyday life rather than a separate reality, begins to incorporate those very activities, which are often overlooked and undervalued by emphasizing them within the instruction. Such efforts help to scaffold the instruction, not merely in the activities described, but also by including less obvious yet equally important values, traditions, and cultural nuances of those who are familiar with the activities portrayed in each community.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Indigenous Information Economy: Indigenous information economy - An system of trade or sale in traditional knowledge itself: for instance the value of algorithms (functional applications) for weaving or beading that were traded or sold in these communities. Typically, information economy is considered as something that only arose with the advent of computers.

Reverse-Engineering: Creating an algorithm or understanding a process by examining the outcome or artifact that it produced.

Ethnocomputing: The study of the cultural aspects of computing, and the computational aspects of culture.

Indigenous: Synonymous to terms such as American Indian, Native American, First Nations, Native Hawaiian, or Alaskan Native; the first people who originated in a particular geographic region and are considered for their historical connection to it.

Culturally Responsive/Integrated/Situated Curriculum: Curriculum created to include (cultural) connections and context(s) reflective of the community of learners it is designed to serve.

Culture: Learned and shared behavior of a society; its ways of life and ways of looking at the world.

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