Navajo Math Circles
A stunningly beautiful documentary
Posted May 12, 2016
In a new film, George Paul Csicsery shares Navajo children’s delight in summer math camp. Sound surprising? It is! Every summer Navajo children get up early and come from miles to a summer program at Dine College in Arizona to embrace math. Young people who previously saw math as something they failed at or something unrelated to their lives are finding joy in math. How did this happen?
Dr. Henry Fowler who created the Navajo Math Circles summer program says it stemmed from his own Native American background. He said as a child he would watch his mother weave unique geometric patterns, listen to the thump, thump, thump of her loom and observe her measuring with the side of her hand. By sitting beside her and her loom he learned Navajo culture, customs and number sense. How could he bring this combination of culture math to his people?
By bringing mathematicians, college educators, local teachers, and reservation children together and using the Eastern European educational model called Math Circles, Dr. Fowler has created new excitement about math on the reservation. Math Circles focus on process, exploring, playing with numbers, instead one right answer. Children and teachers who were previously afraid of math are having fun.
This stunningly beautiful film is shot on site in Arizona and chock full of personal stories and indigenous music. Anyone who is interested in math, education, Navajo culture, and the Southwest will delight in this documentary. Do yourself a favor. Take an hour off and watch it http://www.zalafilms.com/navajo/about.html.