Good-Bye Pythagoras?: 'Ethnomathematics'
Embraces Non-European Methods of Math; Critics Fear a Decline in
Elizabeth Greene, The Chronicle of Higher
Professors are defining a new way of teaching math they call
'ethnomathematics,' or math from a cultural perspective. Elizabeth
Greene in the Chronicle of Higher Education
investigates whether, as some critics fear, this signals a flagging
rigor in the field and perhaps even the dethroning of its early
heroes, like the Greeks Pythagoras and Euclid. This politically
correct math has already been applied in some interesting ways.
Teachers have illustrated the concept of slope by using the
geometric designs in Navajo rugs, for instance, and taught positive
and negative line intersections from early Mormon street maps.
Critics of ethnomathematics worry that such methods are a waste of
precious classroom time and a threat to European standards.
Advocates say that augmenting the traditional approach with a new
appreciation for non-European mathematic and history and knowledge
will enrich a discipline long overdue for an update. -- Amanda