West Point Introduced to Cheyenne Math

May 15th, 1998 | By | Category: 9-4: Pre- K-12 Education, Tribal College News

“Do you know how the Cheyenne used to count the buffalo?” asked Dr. Richard Littlebear at a conference on mathematics and cultural integration held at West Point Military Academy last fall. “We would lay on the ground, count all the legs, and divide by four!” After the crowd’s laughter quieted, Dr. Littlebear changed to a more serious tone. He emphasized the value of the interdisciplinary approach to academics for which West Point has become famous.

Dull Knife Memorial College (Lame Deer, Mont.) faculty Russ Lundgren and Dr. Littlebear attended the workshop to present their ideas for an interdisciplinary math education curriculum drawing upon the Cheyenne Plum Stone Game. Lundgren teaches the mathematics for the elementary teachers course at Dull Knife. He says the game relies heavily upon analytical skills such as determining probability. “The myth is that Indian kids don’t know anything about math, but that’s completely baloney,” he says, as illustrated by the traditional game. Lundgren has used the game in his classroom successfully. With the support from West Point, the Dull Knife faculty will publish their idea so it can be incorporated into curriculum in other places. West Point received funding from the National Science Foundation to find and promote innovative teaching practices for math.

Participating in the West Point workshop were military personnel, participants from other colleges and universities, and evaluators from the National Science Foundation. At the close of the DKMC project presentation, one of the NSF evaluators who had taught at West Point for many years said, “In the 15 years that I have been sitting in on the evaluation of projects of this kind, this is the best proposal that I’ve heard. I think that we should give this project a standing vote of approval.”

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