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[Susan notes: Words are important. Good for educator and author Claudia Zaslavsky for straightening out the casual misuse of the term Ethnomathematics. ]

Submitted to Wall Street Journal but not published

To the editor

Although the title of Ravitch's article is "Ethnomathematics," she completely misrepresents the field. Briefly stated, scholars of ethnomathematics examine the practice of mathematics from an anthropological point of view. They may investigate the mathematical activities engaged in by specific ethnic groups, or by people in certain occupations, such as carpentry or weaving, or by groups of children in a neighborhood.

Ethnomathematics is a field of scholarly study, not a belief system about methods of teaching mathematics. Teachers may choose to introduce aspects of ethnomathematics into their classrooms, usually with great success. For example, fifth graders I worked with developed new insights into our place value system of numeration through their study of the Inca quipu. At the same time, they gained knowledge of Inca history, art, and daily living.

Interested people may search the internet for valid publications on the subject.

Claudia Zaslavsky

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