Nov 05, 2023

Math Monday: Highlighting Indigenous Mathematicians in the Classroom

This Math Monday, we’re celebrating Native American Heritage Month with profiles of three amazing Indigenous mathematicians that you can bring into your classroom. Plus - enough profiles to run a Mathematician of the Week for the whole school year!


Dr. Kyle Dahlin

Kyle Dahlin researches mathematical biology as a Postdoctoral Associate at the University of Georgia. He earned his Ph.D. in mathematics from Purdue University in 2020. 


Read his profile “Honeycreepers and Mosquitos: Hawaiian Researcher Kyle Dahlin” from Indigenous Mathematicians.


Possible Discussion Questions:

  • How did Dr. Dahlin's experience with fieldwork on a small island in Hawaii influence his approach to mathematics?
  • What challenges did Dr. Dahlin face in higher math education? How did he find support?
  • What does Dr. Dahlin focus his research on? Why is he interested in that particular approach or topic?


Mary Golda Ross

Mary Golda Ross was the first known Native American woman engineer. She made significant contributions to aerospace design, including working on Lockheed’s famous Skunk Works project and NASA’s Planetary Flight Handbook. Throughout her life, Ross was committed to advocating for women and Native American people in STEM fields. (from her biography from the National Air and Space Museum)


Read this article “Mary Golda Ross: Mathematician, engineer, and inspiration” from Cherokee Phoenix, or watch this short biography from BESE.

Possible Discussion Questions:

  • Why was particularly significant for Mary Golda Ross to earn her bachelor’s degree in 1928 (and later her master’s degree)?
  • What were some of Mary Golda Ross’ greatest accomplishments?
  • What do you think is Mary Golda Ross’ legacy?


Dr. Belin Tsinnajinnie

Belin Tsinnajinnie is a Diné and Filipinx mathematics education researcher. He received his Ph.D. in Mathematics at the University of Arizona with a doctoral thesis focused on notions of mathematical identity in the context of Indigenous and Latinx students. (from his bio

Watch his interview with MEET a Mathematician!


Possible Discussion Questions:

  • Dr. Tsinnajinnie gives a nuanced answer about whether he considered himself good at mathematics growing up. What do you think it means to be good at math?
  • What does Dr. Tsinnajinnie’s research focus on?
  • Dr. Tsinnajinnie describes initially approaching his career in math as “trying to be recognized for my mathematics first and my other identities [as Native American, Navajo, and Filipino] secondary”. Reflect on how you’re recognized at school: which identity(ies) are the most recognized at school? The least recognized?


Check out the Complete Math in Action Slide Deck!

This slide deck compiles all 36 profiles of the mathematicians previously featured in NGPF’s heritage month blog posts. Each profile includes a photo, a short biography, a resource to learn more, and discussion questions.


About the Author

Kathryn Dawson

Kathryn (she/her) is excited to join the NGPF team after 9 years of experience in education as a mentor, tutor, and special education teacher. She is a graduate of Cornell University with a degree in policy analysis and management and has a master's degree in education from Brooklyn College. Kathryn is looking forward to bringing her passion for accessibility and educational justice into curriculum design at NGPF. During her free time, Kathryn loves embarking on cooking projects, walking around her Seattle neighborhood with her partner and dog, or lounging in a hammock with a book.

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