Commentary on the Chapter by Graeme Were, “From the Known to the Unknown: Pattern, Mathematics and Learning in Papua New Guinea”

From the Known to the Unknown: What It Means to ‘Know’ Mathematics
  • Alan J. Bishop
Part of the Advances in Mathematics Education book series (AME)


Papua New Guinea (PNG) is an anthropologist’s paradise—several hundred still existing languages, people still living in remote villages with memories of first contact with European civilisations, a country still trying to define itself in the context of the modern world, and many cultures still waiting to be documented and understood. Part of its push to modernisation relates to formal school education and Were’s chapter is situated in the context of a PNG Department of Education curriculum development concerning elementary mathematics education. The thrust which interests Were is the plan “to deliver a community-based mathematics education programme in the local vernacular that was sensitive to a child’s existing knowledge of local cultural traditions.” This was indeed a bold initiative, one which few developing countries have successfully realised due to an array of challenges.


Mathematics Education Cultural Knowledge Remote Village Cultural Discourse Western Mathematic 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Barton, B. (1996). Making sense of ethnomathematics: Ethnomathematics is making sense. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 31, 201–233. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bishop, A. J. (1988). Mathematical enculturation. Dordrecht, Holland: Springer. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. D’Ambrosio, U. (1992). Ethnomathematics: A research program on the history and philosophy of mathematics with pedagogical implications. Notices of the American Mathematical Society, 39(10), 1183–1184. Google Scholar
  4. Gerdes, P. (1995). Ethnomathematics and education in Africa. Sweden: Stockholm University. Google Scholar
  5. Joseph, G. G. (1991). The crest of the peacock: Non-European roots of mathematics. London: I.B.Taurus. Google Scholar
  6. Knijnik, G. (1993). An ethnomathematical approach in mathematical education: A matter of political power. For the Learning of Mathematics, 13(2), 23–26 Google Scholar
  7. Lipka, J., Sharp, N., Adams, B., & Sharp, F. (2007). Creating a third space for authentic biculturalism: Examples from math in a cultural context. Journal of American Indian Education, 46(3), 94–105. Google Scholar
  8. Pinxten, R., van Dooren, I., & Soberon, E. (1987). Towards a Navajo Indian geometry. Gent: K.K.L. Books. Google Scholar
  9. Wilder, R. L. (1981). Mathematics as a cultural system. Oxford: Pergamon. Google Scholar
  10. Zaslavsky, C. (1993). Multicultural mathematics. Portland: J. Western Watch. Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Monash UniversityMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations