U of S spreads love of math to First Nations students

A new program at the University of Saskatchewan is trying to get young First Nations students interested in math.

Math Mania uses real-world examples to teach skills

Students taking part in the University of Saskatchewan's Math Mania program. (University of Saskatchewan)

Professors from the University of Saskatchewan are hitting the road.

They're travelling to First Nations communities across Saskatchewan, trying to instill a love of math in young students. Called 'Math Mania,' the program uses real-world examples from the lives of First Nations students to teach abstract math concepts.

"We just start with something from the culture," tutor Stavros Stavrou said. "For example, building fish racks, something that these students can relate to and identify with. Then, we look at the mathematics related to that. So, for example, if they're building a rectangular fish rack, and we have a fixed perimeter, we give them Popsicle sticks, and they need to make the largest possible rectangle in order to maximize the number of fish they can put on it."

Stavros said the approach seems to be working.

"Since it applies and it's tangible, they are easily motivated," he said. "[As opposed to] coming in and teaching abstract concepts."

Math professor Chris Soteros said it's important to get more First Nations students interested in math at a young age. She said First Nations students are underrepresented in math and science programs at universities and that needs to change.

"The idea was to see what we could do to motivate them earlier so that they recognized that math was a very important component to science," she said.

The program also provides teachers working on reserves with specialized lesson plans geared toward First Nations students.