(ETH.noh.math.uh.mat.iks; th as in thin) n. Mathematics as practiced by non-Western ethnic groups and marginalized groups within Western society. Also: ethno-mathematics.
ethnomathematical adj.
ethnomathematician n.

Example Citations:
Starting in 1993, he traveled across Africa on a Fulbright scholarship to investigate evidence of fractals in windscreens, carvings and textiles. He explored villages — once leaning precariously out of a small airplane to take pictures of layout patterns. His resulting book, "African Fractals," argues for a mathematical intelligence in African design more complex than generally appreciated.

Eglash's research fits in squarely with "ethnomathematics," a term coined in the '80s and usually used to describe the mathematical practices of smaller or indigenous cultural groups. While ethnomathematicians have studied Mayan calendars and even boomerang flights, a unifying theme is an emphasis on mathematical accomplishments outside the Western canon.

Advocates see ethnomathematics as a useful way to make math more expansive and relevant to students from different backgrounds. Critics characterize it as a diversion from numbers that could lead to softer standards.
—Michael Hill, "In hair and Latin beats, professor creates math lessons," The Associated Press, April 29, 2003

Ethnomathematics — the general name mathematician Ubiratan D'Ambrosio of Brazil coined for this study of the concepts, practices, and artifacts through which we discover mathematical elements among peoples living outside or on the margins of Western culture — teaches us to look at "exotic" forms of mathematics as an intrinsic element of the civilizations in which they have flourished, well worth studying for their own sake.
—Dirk J. Struik, "Everybody counts," Technology Review, August 1995

Earliest Citation:
Native American Mathematics appears at a time when interest in ethnomathematics is on the increase. Educational projects devoted to developing mathematics materials relevant to the Native American heritage, style of learning, and economic environment are currently under way at Northern Arizona University, Oklahoma State University, and the Fort Ojibway School in Minnesota, to name but a few. An International Study Group on Ethnomathematics has been established, a newsletter on the subject is being published, and international meetings have been scheduled.
—Charles G. Moore, "Native American Mathematics (book review), Science, May 22, 1987

First Use:
Ethnomathematics [is] the maths practised among cultural groups such as national-tribal societies, labour groups, children of a certain age bracket, professional classes and so on.
—Ubiratan D'Ambrosio, "Ethnomathematics and Its Place in the History and Pedagogy of Mathematics," For the Learning of Mathematics: An International Journal of Mathematics Education, February 1985

Related Words: