Mathematics Through Aboriginal Storytelling
The main purpose of the short films, which are 3-4 minutes in length, is to relate stories about the adventures of animated characters. The scenarios take place in Aboriginal cultural and physical environments. The resolution of a particular plot always requires some mathematical knowledge. Plots in our stories are a mixture of adventures and math puzzles with the aim of catching a viewer’s attention and interest (thus the title of our project). Each story closes with an open-ended question that should spark discussions and lead to further activities. The question at the end of each story is purposefully not answered in the story.
The story was inspired by narration from Ms. Rina Sinclair of the Siksika Nation. The story can be shown to elementary school students as a counting practice/puzzle or as a pattern recognition problem. For high school students it could be a way to introduce arithmetic progressions, modular addition, or an idea of number systems with a base different than 10.
In Small Number and the Old Canoe mathematics is present throughout the story with the hope that this experience will make at least some members of our young audience, with the moderator’s help, recognize more mathematics around them in their everyday lives. We use terms like smooth, shape, oval, and surface, the mathematical phraseology like, It must be at least a hundred years old, the artist skillfully presents reflection (symmetry) of trees in water, and so on. The idea behind this approach is to give the moderator a few openings to introduce or emphasize various mathematical objects, concepts, and terminology. The short film is a little math suspense story and our question is related only to one part of it. The aim of the question is to lead to an introduction at an intuitive level of the concept of a function and the essence of the principle of inclusion-exclusion as a counting technique. The authors would also like to give their audience an opportunity to appreciate that in order to understand a math question, one often needs to read (or in this case, watch) a problem more than once.
Small Number is a young boy who gets into a lot of mischief. Twice a week, after school, he goes with his friends to the Aboriginal Friendship Centre. There the boys first have a snack and then they do mathematics for half an hour. Sometimes they do algebra in their workbooks, but usually they play mathematical games. They also love playing basketball in the Centre’s gym and wish to enter a tournament. Small Number demonstrates how a basic understanding of combinatorics can help in all aspects of life, even basketball!