Ethnomathematics: The Role of Culture in the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics

By Dr Emmanuel Edoho & Idongesit Moses Ekpo


Mathematics is one of the most important as well as the least understood school subjects in Nigeria. This lack of understanding manifests in low performance during examinations and has severally been attributed to the abstract nature of the subject, pedagogical style as well as lack of qualified teachers, among others. The relatedness of the learners’ cognitive patterns and background experiences to the study of mathematics as a subject is in most cases not considered as a cause of the low performance during mathematics instruction. Mathematics is greatly distorted when it is reduced to a series of techniques and is detached from the rich intellectual setting of a culture. The teaching and learning of mathematics should therefore be derived from the learners’ background knowledge and experiences drawn from his culture. This forms the background to the study of ethnomathematics. This paper discusses the relatedness of the concept of mathematics, culture, and ethnomathematics. Various challenges facing the use of ethnomathematics in a multicultural classroom setting and especially in a developing nation like Nigeria is also discussed. Recommendations are made for students, teachers, and other stakeholders towards the improvement of mathematics teaching and learning.

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