The Sociomathematics of Africa

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“Every culture has contributed to math just as it has contributed to literature.  It’s a universal language; numbers belong to everyone.”

In corporate industries, there exist emerging technologies. Emerging technologies are “technologies whose development, practical applications, or both are still largely unrealized, such that they are figuratively emerging into prominence from a background of nonexistence or obscurity.”

Four hundred plus years of history we have yet to begin scratching the surface. There is still a huge gap of largely unrealized history that has been hidden in the ruins of African civilization. From within the ruins we must reach in and dig out the history that remains dormant in the background. The time for an awakening is now for a different black history!

A different black history that showcases Africans as cultivators and knowledge bearers of Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics. The application of mathematics in the lives of African people has been researched and studied under the multi-cultural mathematics phenomenon sociomathematics.

Sociomathematics first emerged through the scholarly work of Claudia Zaslavsky. The publication of Africa Counts: number and pattern in African cultures became the building block in reconstructing the narrative of Africans ability to count.  The motivation to embark on a more culturally inclusive curriculum grew out of the demands in the 1960’s by African American students and the community for an African studies program. Specifically African American studies requested the inclusion of African history, literature, culture, as well as Swahili language in the curriculum for secondary education.

The emergence of sociomathematics arose from the roots of ethnomathematics .Ethnomathematics is the study of the relationship between mathematics and culture. The goal of enthomathematics is to contribute both to the understanding of culture and mathematics leading to an appreciation of the connection between the two.  A culturally based mathematics curriculum main objectives are the following:

  1. Promoting alternative ways of understanding.
  2. Making concepts applicable to everyday life.
  3. Utilizing complex mathematical systems that have evolved over time in other cultures.
  4. Connecting students to lesson by making them feel less alienated within the learning environment.

The advantage of ethnomathematics over western culture mathematics is that it’s more than just about solving an equation for a derivative. It shows that mathematics is a way of life embedded in the makeup of our culture and society. Upon the foundation of ethnomathematics rises sociomathematics, where it has influenced the evolution of African institutions through the use of mathematics.

At its core sociomathematics encompasses the following:

  • Development of a number system through gesture counting. The development of a numeration system in any particular society ultimately rests upon the economic development of the society. African systems of numeration varied from a few words to well-constructed systems in which counting extended into the millions.
  • The use of beads, shells, nuts, or pebbles as media exchange or counting materials.
  • Production of patterns both numerical and geometrical.
  • Numerical patterns evident in games from versions of tic tac toe to universal board games.
  • African art geometric pattern and symmetries appear in carved and painted masks.

From African clothing, art, cultural entertainment there lies evidence of the use of mathematics within different applications.  Emerging technologies are only as strong as the market demands in bringing about a new innovative trend that transcends society.

Historians Connect is writing a new chapter of black history. A different black history that will emerge sociomathematics beyond academia. The next big thing in black history is here! Learn, explore, and create history with us as we shift the narrative to change the culture.

The online on demand webinar, The Sociomathematics of Africa is now available on Historians Connect YouTube channel. Watch and subscribe to learn more about this ground breaking multi-cultural phenomenon sociomathematics.



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Africa Counts, African-American History, black culture, Black History, education, emerging technologies, ethnomathematics, mathematics, multi-cultural mathematics, sociomathematics

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