New documentary about math education on the Navajo Nation


The CSME has been involved in enhancing STEM education in the Navajo Nation since 2010, thanks to the efforts of Holly Godsey, Hugo Rossi and Cecelia Tso, and the support of the NSF in a supplement to a Noyce Teacher Training Program. Our goal was to enhance STEM education in the Nation through its teachers. We learned from prior efforts that narrowly targeted approaches do not work: the impact must be holistic and involve the Navajo culture (which is in its depth based on science and mathematics), students, teachers, parents and elders. This involved time, effort and commitment beyond the financial support. We developed connections, primarily with Dine College through its Math Professor, Henry Fowler, and created workshops at Dine College to develop this interaction.


In 2012 a colleague of ours from San Jose State University, Tatiana Shubin, took her sabbatical leave in the Navajo nation, devoting it to developing programs consistent with the Navajo culture and dedicated to mathematical exploration. For the kids this was a Math Camp, and for the professionals, a Teachers’ Circle. In the middle of her presentation of her objectives to Henry Fowler, he stopped her and said “I want to work with you.”


The involvement of the Utah CSME was behind the scenes, but was essential to the success of this intervention and the realization of their goals.


This documentary is about this development and its effect on the Navajo nation, its teachers and students, and the “outsiders” participating in the program.