I came into the Ethnomathematics Graduate Certificate (GCERT) program as a state policy leader, serving as the Hawai’i Department of Education’s Mathematics Educational Specialist. What originally brought me into the state level role was my work around empowering students as leaders in dialogic mathematics classrooms, and my hope was to broaden the impact of that work in Hawai’i’s public schools. In addition, I saw that I needed to equip myself with concrete knowledge of ethnomathematics as I continued to support mathematics programming for over 10,000 students in 247 schools in Hawai’i. I felt my kuleana as a content educational specialist was to know the place-based cultural and contextual knowledge of applied content.
My ethnomathematics learning journey went through two major changes. First, in the fall of 2020, I left my state-level role to go back into the classroom, teaching mathematics at La Pietra – Hawai’i School for Girls. Through this change, I shifted my learning lens from, “what is best for students in Hawai’i?” to “what is best for my students?” bringing much more intentionality and practicality to my work. Second, in the ethnomathematics program, I saw myself continually yearn for cultural and contextual knowledge, but only through reflection have I discovered that subconsciously I was developing something greater, an ethnomathematics lens.
With changes to my educational role and ethnomathematics development, my educational practice evolved. I recognized how my students’ diverse ethnic backgrounds and lived experiences helped contribute to a rich and distinct, one-of-a-kind learning environment. Rather than focusing on what my students learn, I focused on embedding my students’ identities and perspectives as part of integrating ethnomathematics into my teaching practice. Some things I do regularly to support this are to provide time for students to (a) work collaboratively, (b) assess their peers’ work, and (3) reflect on their learning. I now see how ethnomathematics is integral to optimizing each of these practices. Through collaboration, students see multiple truths (their peers’ and their own) contributing to a greater collective understanding. As students assess peer work, they empathize in order to understand conceptions of others. Lastly, student reflection is supported through asking intentional questions, such as what are your challenges to mastery? where did you see growth as a learner? and, which other student contributed most to your learning? As a result, I am able to (1) empower individual student identity as students see their unique emic ethnomathematical lens contributing to the learning experience for all, and (2) create conditions for students to develop an etic ethnomathematical lens, one that respects and values the diversity of others’ thoughts and opinions as contributors to their own holistic understanding.