Navajo Math Circles
United States, 2016, 59 min.
In English and Diné with English subtitles.
This film is family friendly.
Navajo Math Circles follows Navajo students in a lively collaboration with mathematicians. Students stay late after school and assemble over the summer at Diné College to study mathematics. The math circles approach emphasizes student-centered learning by putting children in charge of exploring mathematics to their own joy and satisfaction. The documentary reveals the challenges in education on the Navajo Nation. Applications of math in Native culture provide tools for increasing math literacy, highlighting the special connections between Navajo culture, natural beauty, and mathematics. The presence of math circles raises the hopes of parents, students, and teachers for a brighter future.
The film concentrates on the Navajo students, the breathtakingly beautiful country they live in, and the innovative project that blends a unique approach to teaching math with a reinforcement of traditional Navajo culture and values. The personalities of Henry Fowler and Tatiana Shubin emerge as larger than life as they create an alliance to coax brilliance from their students. The students open up in ways I have never experienced in over 40 years of directing documentary films. They teach us about values embedded in Native culture that are largely lost in the fast-paced world most of us inhabit.
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