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UH West Oahu Hokuleʻa math field study teaches students real-world mathematics applications

University of Hawaiʻi-West Oʻahu
Julie Funasaki Yuen, (808) 454-4821
Public Relations and Marketing Department
Posted: Mar 5, 2008

UH West Oʻahu (UHWO) students and their Math Center tutors recently embarked on a field study at Sand Island on the internationally renowned sailing vessel, the Hokuleʻa. While sanding surfaces and varnishing rails, students learned about the mathematical calculations for voyages aboard the famous canoe from Kaʻiulani Murphy, Polynesian Voyaging Society navigator. During the field study, Murphy discussed the interconnectivity of math and ancient pathways based on celestial navigation.

"I didn‘t realize how much math had to be factored into going on a voyage," said UHWO student Mhoana Bello. "The amount of supplies, the dimensions of each canoe, and distance and travel time all had to be factored in. It was interesting to learn about the historical aspects of the voyage and also how it relates to math in terms of what exact proportions of each material had to be put into making the canoe in order to better the voyage."

This spring, UH West Oʻahu opened a new undergraduate Math Center where student math tutors and tutees work together on real-world mathematics applications in addition to traditional class assignments. Funded by the Islands of Opportunity Alliance-Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (IOA-LSAMP) program, the Math Center enhances the student experience at UH West Oʻahu through a culturally-sensitive mathematics curriculum, and combines academic mentoring with personalized tutoring.

"One of the concepts I stress in class is ethnomathematics, or the connection of math to sociocultural, linguistic and historical traditions," says UHWO Assistant Professor of Mathematics, Linda Furuto. "While it is very important to learn about textbook mathematics, it is equally critical to understand that there were great mathematicians that emerged from Hawaiʻi and the Pacific Islands, including the students‘ ancestors."

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