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Problems with Purpose

Problems With Purpose is a collection of mathematical problems to be used for students in grades 4 to 12. Each problem is meant to highlight the connection between mathematics and our collective responsibility to present and future generations. These problems can be used by parents, teachers and guardians to introduce various mathematical concepts to students with a connection to the world around us.

Topics include drinking water, sustainable fishing practices, word searches in the Cree language, demographic trends, and reducing poverty.

Volume 1

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The Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing (CEMC) is situated on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee peoples. As part of the University of Waterloo campus, the CEMC is located on the Haldimand Tract, the land granted to the Six Nations that includes six miles on each side of the Grand River. Our active work toward reconciliation at the University of Waterloo takes place across our campuses through research, learning, teaching, and community building, and is coordinated within the Office of Indigenous Relations. At the CEMC, we partner with educators and work with students who are located across Turtle Island and around the world. We seek to work in the spirit of the University of Waterloo’s Indigenous Strategic Plan and the Faculty of Math’s Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Anti-racism, and Indigenization (EDI-R & I) Principles.

Over the last few years, the Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing has had many conversations with teachers who are Indigenous, and teachers who teach in Indigenous communities about how the CEMC could support the calls of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. A recurring theme was the importance of exploring mathematics with concrete connections to the world around us. Mathematics can transcend cultural boundaries and has the potential to unite societies. With this aim to help students explore mathematics through hands-on activities, the CEMC created a collection of mathematics questions for high school students, called “Problems with Purpose”.

Grand River watershed Grand River watershed in autumn
Source: Photos in the Grand River watershed by Judith Koeller