## Sasquatch Math Stories

Posted on: June 14th, 2024 by jnovakowski

During third term of this school year, I worked with Francesca Fotheringham and her grades 2&3 class in The Studio at Grauer to explore the local story The Sasquatch, The Fire, and the Cedar Baskets by Joseph Dandurand, an Indigenous author and Simon Daniel James, an Indigenous illustrator. We read a part of the story each week, drawing out the story experience over several weeks.

We began by “noticing and wondering” about the cover illustrations and title and the students made connections to Coast Salish design elements and forest fires. Many students had not heard of the term Sasquatch and I had anticipated this in my preparations of being “storywork ready” and shared a bit about the story of the Sasquatch in our region and how it is often called “Big Foot” in the USA.

If you are not familiar with Dr. Jo-ann Archibald’s Indigenous Storywork, you can find out more at the website HERE.

Along the way, we recorded connections and questions that came up for the students, often pausing together to do a mini-investigation of a mathematical idea. By doing so, we were enacting some of the ideas from the book Mathematizing Children’s Literature: Sparking connections, joy, and wonder through read-alouds and discussion by Allison Hintz and Antony Smith. Some teachers in our district were in a book club with this book as part of the BC Reggio-Inspired Mathematics Project.

Two examples of mini-investigations that we did were figuring out the length of the Sasquatch’s foot at the beginning of the story and investigating the quantity of 1000 later in the story.

We read the factual information from the book and used a metre stick on the ground to model an approximate length of the Sasquatch foot. It was interesting that the book use imperial measurements so we had to do some mental math calculations to convert to metres and centimetres. Some students also thought about this information as they created scale Sasquatch characters for their stories, with clay.

The quantity of 1000 came up a few times in the story – 1000 years, 1000 baskets and 1000 butterflies. To build understanding of the quantity of 1000, students were invited to build and make 1000 in many ways.

After our weekly reading, students were invited to choose from continuing with a related project they were doing or to pose a math problem inspired by the story. We practiced posing problems a few times to develop important understandings such as the language structure and information needed in a story or problem, and the need for their to be a question or something to solve.

After many “drafts” of problems, Francesca had the students complete and illustrate a final problem to be shared with others to solve.

A collection of some of the problems can be found here:

After reading the story, these problems could be projected on a screen for students to solve, printed and cut into problem strips for students to choose from and solve, or to inspire students to pose their own problems.

Some of the students were particularly interested in weaving and chose to investigate weaving cedar baskets as their inquiry project. They looked at my cedar mat and basket that I had learned to make from local Indigenous weavers and the students used strips of black construction paper to weave and figure out how baskets are made.

A group of students played with re-telling the story or creating their own Sasquatch stories using shadow puppets and creating story landscapes with story materials. From these play experiences, extensions and variations to the story as well as math problems emerged.

As we read the story, we also focused on knowledge building around local species, making connections to how math helps us identify and describe different living things. We learned about the cedar tree, salmon, local berries, and mushrooms.

Because this was an ongoing study, I added photographs and information we collected along the way to a “living documentation” wall in The Studio. The teachers and students both used this wall as a place of inspiration, to recall past experiences, and to go to for information.

As we came to the end of the story and read the last page, one of the students commented, “I thought there was going to be another page!” which gave us the opportunity to discuss story structures and how one type of local Indigenous story (again, see Dr. Jo-ann Archibald’s work) leaves us without a resolution that many of us anticipate in a story and instead, leaves us wondering what might happen or come next. With repeated hearing of a story over time, children, and then adults might take different meanings from these stories. In our BC curriculum the structure of “beginning, middle, end” is still included as “the” story structure and part of Indigenizing our curriculum and pedagogy is sharing stories with non-Eurocentric story structures such as this one.

At the end of May, we spent two sessions together finishing up math stories and projects students has begun as well as re-visiting the importance of the cedar tree to local Indigenous cultures.

We watched this video – Knowledge Keepers: Cedar Harvest – from the Museum of Anthropology about the cultural significance of cedar and how it is harvested, featuring local weaver Jessica Silvey.

We also read more information books from Strong Nations about cedar. Some students then followed a berry design “math mat” pattern shared by Jessica’s studio to create cedar mats and others created their own patterns in their weavings. We made connections to the local berries in the story and I brought in some branches of salmonberry which fruit in this area in June, known as the time of the salmonberry in Musqueam culture.

Another connected art experience some students chose was to create cedar mono prints using gel plates and they noticed the detail, pattern, and shapes in the red cedar that we used.

This interdisciplinary project was a way to ground a math project in story and make connections as the story progressed and was experienced in different ways, through retelling, using materials, building knowledge and creating story landscapes. It required some design thinking to consider how to navigate weaving between story, math problem posing, and interdisciplinary investigations but I think the students responded so positively to this approach to learning and thinking about mathematics, Indigenous knowledge and stories, and the world around them.

With thanks to classroom teacher Francesca Fotheringham and the grades 2&3 students in division 5 at Grauer for their participation and contributions to this project.

~Janice