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  1. Evolution of a Dream: The Emergence of Mayan Ethnomathematics and Indigenous Ways of Knowing

  2. at a Mayan Autonomous School in Chiapas, Mexico by Dr. Faviana Hirsch-Dubin • “Estamos aqui. Todos somos viento.” • “We are here. We are the wind.” -Tzotzil Mayan saying

  3. Ancient Mayan World orMundo Maya • Before the Spanish conquest, the Mayan world consisted of Southern Mexico, Guatemala, and parts of Belize, Honduras and El Salvador

  4. The Context of Chiapas • Southernmost state in Mexico • 30% indigenous • 36% Tzotzil Maya-largest group • 80% of indigenous live in Highlands, Northern Zone, and Jungle

  5. Context continued • Extreme poverty: mostly subsistence agriculture (83%); 70% malnourished • Minimum wage=43 pesos per day ($4) • 40% no electricity or running water • 70% have dirt floors • 1 doctor for every 25,000 people

  6. YET • Chiapas generates 54% of the country’s hydroelectric energy • 30% of Mexico’s surface water is in Chiapas • Mega-projects are underway to extract natural resources (source: SIPAZ and CIEPAC)

  7. And Mayan Education? • 40% no formal education • 37% don’t speak Spanish • 42% 15 and older are pre-literate • Government schools teach in Spanish and don’t include pre-conquest history • Therefore, no Mayan history, language, culture

  8. Emergence of EZLN • “Basta Ya” on January 1, 1994 • Rejection of NAFTA • Develop autonomy in all areas, including education • Autonomy is a self-initiated and self-defined community-based democratic process.

  9. Autonomous Schools • Bilingual, Maya-centered education • Honors Mayan culture, traditions and indigenous ways of knowing • Promoters (teachers) encourage a collective, critical learning process with students. • Run by the communities

  10. Our Project: Developing Mayan ethnomathematics Ancient Mayan mathematics hard to access • “ Every people has its roots and must defend them. The Mayans observed the stars without great lenses and could tell all the planetary cycles. That education of ours was destroyed.” -Adrian (3-26-02)

  11. Our Project con’t. • Project guided by values and terms of indigenous leadership • Ethnomathematics in “marginalized cultures” challenges Eurocentrism (Bishop, 1988; D’Ambrosio, 1985; Gerdes, 1985; Powell & Frankenstein, 1997)

  12. 2x2=2x2 • Debate over “2x2=2x2 no matter what” • “universal” vs. Mayan ethnomathematics • Why did this matter?

  13. Maya-centered mathematics • Develop consciousness of Maya-centered mathematics over time (4 years) • Happens in “own rhythm & own time • Explore ancient Mayan system & math embedded in cosmology, art, rituals, agriculture, weaving, embroidery & more

  14. Potential cultural loss • Danger of losing some cultural traditions • Changes in ancient vs. “modern” practices: Tzolkin ritual calendar, prayers before planting, respect for nature

  15. Agency & ethnomathematics language • July 2003: articulated by promoters & students • One team of students said, “Mayan mathematics is the ideas of the Mayan world in which numbers were invented by necessity…this represents basic concepts of our culture.”

  16. Daily practices & Mayan ethnomathematics • Symmetrical patterns in embroidery & weaving • Measure milpas (cornfields) • Use Haab solar calendar in Tzotzil

  17. Conclusions • Mathematics problematized • Resources & arguments provided for Mayan view of mathematics • Intercultural dialogue & indigenous approach to knowledge construction • Collaborative teaching as basis for research • Mayan ethnomathematics did emerge

  18. In the words of a student… • “We are descendents of the ancient Maya. They had extraordinary knowledge and could calculate things in an advanced way. We want to follow in their footsteps because we are also Mayas.”