Hokulea with star campass overlaid
Voyaging on land and sea with the Hawaiian Star Compass Image by Anthony Nāʻālehu for the Polynesian Voyaging Society

From a grant-funded institute to the world’s first academic program with an official field of licensure in ethnomathematics from the Hawaiʻi Teacher Standards Board, the University of Hawai‘i Ethnomathematics Program invites you to join the voyage!  

ethnomathematics seal

“The Ethnomathematics Program is pioneering change. By taking traditional and modern knowledge and blending science and technology, they are creating major breakthroughs in education. I consider this program a true navigator of education.” – Nainoa Thompson

Present and Future

  • For examples of intellectual property produced by the University of Hawaiʻi (UH) Ethnomathematics Program, please see our curriculum database of lesson plans created and implemented by alumni. These are aligned with state and federal standards and benchmarks such as Mathematics Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and Nā Hopena A‘o.
  • Peer-reviewed invitations to present and publish this work have been extended from organizations such as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2018, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013), Hawai‘i Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2019, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014), American Evaluation Association (2017, 2016), Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (2017), Pacific Circle Consortium (2017), Smithsonian Institution Pacific Festival (2016), and International Congress on Mathematical Education (2016).
  • In addition, the UH Ethnomathematics Program has been featured in media locally and internationally: Hawaiʻi Public Radio (2019, 2015, 2010), Mathematical Association of America (2011), International Congress on Mathematical Education (2016), PBS Hawai‘i (2016), and University of Hawai‘i System News (2019, 2015).
Group collaboration photo
Collaborating with the Hawai'i DOE and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics


  • In Fall 2018, the Hawai‘i Teacher Standards Board (HTSB) officially approved the application to add a field of licensure in ethnomathematics at the K–6, 6–12, and K–12 grade levels. There are no other state boards in the U.S. that have approved ethnomathematics as a field of licensure.
  • As deemed by the HTSB, the add-a-field serves as evidence to the professional community of educators and the general public that the UH Ethnomathematics Program assessments, rubrics, and framework meet relevant state and federal standards in P–20 instruction.
Students exploring star compass
Mathematical modeling with celestial navigation and wayfinding


  • The Ethnomathematics and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Institute transitioned into a yearlong professional development program at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.
  • The focus was on P–20 educators across the State of Hawai‘i. More than 100 educators from public, public charter, and private schools participated, including all 15 complex areas and seven districts of the Hawai‘i State Department of Education (HIDOE). Teachers also completed additional requirements to obtain six HIDOE PDE-3 credits.
  • This formed an integrated statewide network that demonstrated both a need and commitment to improving learner outcomes, particularly in underserved and underrepresented populations.
keynote address speakers
Hawai'i Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Conference keynote address


  • The University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa officially approved the world’s first institutionalized program in ethnomathematics.
  • The opportunity to proceed with becoming an institutionalized program became more pressing with the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s (PVS) Mālama Honua (“caring for Island Earth”) Worldwide Voyage. The Promise to Children is the educational sail plan and was authored by leaders throughout the State of Hawaiʻi and Pacific, including Ethnomathematics Institute project partners: University of Hawai‘i System (UHS), Hawai‘i State Department of Education (HIDOE), Hawai‘i P–20 Partnerships for Education, Pacific American Foundation, and Pacific Resources for Education and Learning.
  • The Promise to Children embraces the values of wayfinding to navigate a movement dedicated to future generations stating, “We believe the betterment of humanity is inherently possible, and we believe our schools, from early childhood education through advanced graduate studies, are a powerful force for good. This is the voyage of our lifetimes…the University of Hawai‘i’s 10 campuses have active programs and projects to achieve this goal such as…ethnomathematics learning” [emphasis added] (p. 3).
Students working together
Learning about ethnomathematics pillars and kuleana


  • Beginning of the Ethnomathematics and STEM Institute at the University of Hawai‘i – West O‘ahu (UHWO) with guidance from those past, present, and future. “Once you learn to find your way, you can never be lost—no matter where you go” (http://www.exploratorium.edu/neverlost/).
  • Generous support provided by the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Education, Hawai‘i Pacific Islands Campus Compact, and University of Hawai‘i Diversity and Equity Initiative.
  • The focus was on undergraduate STEM majors and pre-service educators at UHWO.
  • For the first six years at UHWO, performance measures included a 1400% increase in the number of students enrolled in mathematics courses as the general student body population grew from 940 students in 2007 to 2,361 students in 2013 (UH IRO, 2016). This led to development of 11 new mathematics courses tied to institutional learning outcomes, accreditation, and graduation requirements.
Students on Hokulea
Students sailing on Hōkūle‘a with STEM