Issues and underlying factors relating to the graduation rates of Aboriginal students from mathematics programs
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The intent of my research was to shed light on the factors that impede Aboriginal students from finding success in their formal mathematical instruction within the Ontario provincial education system. The goal of my research was to provide a direction with which to proceed into the future. Specifically, my research was an attempt to explore the issues surrounding the high dropout rate of Aboriginal students. This research project is critically important because recent data is indicating that Aboriginals continue to struggle in school with dropout rates far above the national average (Auditor General of Canada, 2010; Banff International Research Station for Mathematical Innovation and Discovery, 2009). The aligning of my ontology, my understanding of epistemology and my methodology was critical in this process. My ontology encompasses a Euro-western perspective but has been swayed by the Aboriginal perspectives of my husband and family. My epistemology includes a mathematical framework combined with an attempt to understand situations through narrative. This aligning process has required incorporation of a unique ethno-epistemology, as I am also working with First Nations people. The study involved First Nations participants who had completed their elementary education in their community. Participants who had completed a partial elementary program in their community, with the remainder in provincial schools were also included in the study. All students had transferred their elementary mathematics education to provincial Lakehead Public Schools Board secondary schools. None of the participants had completed post-secondary education. Therefore, the participants were asked questions pertaining to their early mathematical experiences through to their secondary mathematics education encounters, in an attempt to discover why they dropped out of their high school mathematics program.