Building Equity into Learning – Supporting Immersion Education in Canada

5 min

All learners should have access to the best possible opportunities, tools, and resources for learning, so that they can develop the qualities, skills and abilities necessary to achieve their well-being and self-actualization. This includes learning in one’s own language. 

Reclaiming First Nations languages is an important step in reconciliation in Canada. Thanks to a new translation initiative, Indigenous children in Canada will for the first time be getting the opportunity to learn math in their own languages. This language initiative was born a number of years ago, thanks to the Elders of Mount Currie, who translated the first pages of the very first JUMP Math books into Ucwalmicts.

In 2021, JUMP Math, as part of its charitable mission, gave permission to Indigenous communities to translate its copyrighted resources into First Nations languages for use in Indigenous language immersion classrooms, where students are taught by Elders and teachers about their culture in the language of the community. This is an important step in addressing language and cultural loss due to Residential schools. JUMP Math has also offered to provide files that community translators can use with their translation initiatives for their own classrooms.

“Translating JUMP Math into Indigenous languages is a huge step forward for many reasons,” says Dr. Lorna Wanosts’a7 Williams, Professor Emerita of Indigenous Education, Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Victoria and Canada Research Chair in Education and Linguistics. “Indigenous Peoples can learn math in their own languages, languages that have been decimated by the Euro-western world, but thankfully are still here because people refused to be silenced; and math concepts can be learned, taught, used, discussed and understood in Indigenous languages.” 

JUMP Math has also been translated into Inuktitut through a language initiative driven by the government of Katavik in 2017. In the Katavik School Board, JUMP Math provided professional learning support to the Kativik School Board in tandem with the translation of the Grades K-2 JUMP Math student Assessment & Practice resources into Inuktitut. 

JUMP Math is now the core resource for Kindergarten to Grade 6 classrooms in each of the 17 schools in 14 communities spread out along both the Ungava and Hudson Coasts in Northern Quebec. These resources were translated into Inuktitut and French in 2018. 

Last year, nearly 11,000 Indigenous children in more than 90 remote and rural communities across Canada used JUMP Math to build their math skills and confidence. The hope is that more communities will be able to access local and federal funds to implement evidence-based programs like JUMP Math in the coming years. With generous funding from donors, such as the M.E.H. Foundation, JUMP Math is providing professional development, coaching and support to teachers and educational assistants in Indigenous communities.

JUMP Math’s outreach to schools in these communities is led by Outreach Manager, Liz Barrett, who provides support to Indigenous educators in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories, and Yukon. Outreach Manager Frances Agro supports Indigenous educators in Ontario and Quebec. Prior to COVID-19, they regularly travelled to and worked in Indigenous communities, supporting staff who use JUMP Math in their classrooms with professional learning. This support has continued throughout the pandemic with close collaboration with staff through video chats and webinars.

“I get invited into communities and see firsthand the success of teachers, schools and whole communities,” says Barrett. “There are many educational initiatives happening in a number of communities of which JUMP Math is just one, which is both inspirational and exciting.”

To further support both teachers and students in Indigenous communities across Canada, Indigenous Outreach Assistant, Caleb Wesley has joined the JUMP Math team. Caleb was born on the island reserve of Moose Factory located at the southern tip of James Bay and is a member of the Moose Cree First Nation.  

“The realities of working in Indigenous communities are not unfamiliar to me, and it is necessary that educators receive support across all subjects, but especially mathematics.  Mathematics education is a barrier to most students, even more so for Indigenous students.”

If your community is interested in the translation initiative, please contact Liz Barrett at: [email protected]. To support the translation of JUMP Math resources into Indigenous languages, contact the JUMP Math Development team at: [email protected].