Braiding As Pathway To Mathematics Cultural Studies Essay

For centuries work forces and adult females have used their hair non merely as a agency of manners but besides to expose their civilization and degrees of edification. Peoples may hold seldom thought of the mathematics involved in their hair manners. The relationship between mathematics and hair manners may be an first-class manner to associate mathematics to pupils. For immature people in the United States, peculiarly African America pupils, it would be really important to utilize braided hair manners such as cornrows to show mathematical belongingss. The intent of this survey is to find what type of mathematics is involved in hair gold braid and if the hair braiders are cognizant of the mathematics that they are utilizing. Some subtopics of involvement would be who may happen the relationship between hair gold braid and mathematics utile, and at what age should the connexion be presented to pupils.

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Literature Review

Harmonizing to a web site constructed by Ron Eglash ( n.d ) cornrow plaits may day of the month back to 500 B.C. and are non limited to Africa entirely. These hair manners have ties to the civilization of African through “ faith, affinity, position, age, ethnicity, and other properties of individuality ” ( Eglash, twelvemonth? ) . Braiding allows for communicating between the braider and the individual whose hair is acquiring braided. In many cases this is the manner that information about the household and community may be shared, every bit good as a clip to socialise. The manners and forms of the cornrows may change from a additive form to one that involves more luxuriant forms such as spirals and curves. In this manner “ mathematics is besides a traditional portion of African hairdos ” ( Eglash, twelvemonth? ) .

The traditions associated with hair lacing that originated in Africa were able to come to the United States. This was no little effort sense the caputs of the African were shaved prior to come ining the New World. The chief ground for the hair film editing was healthful grounds but this was still lay waste toing to the Africans going the Middle Passage to the New World. Many of the African that worked inside of the places of the plantation proprietors had to have on their hair neatly and in many cases used plaits, braids and cornrows to maintain the visual aspect of their hair neat.

Black people were able to unbend their hair after the civil war when Madam C.J. Walker developed a safer system for hair unbending. African American grownups chiefly wore their hair directly while kids continued to utilize the cornrows and other braided manners to manner their hair. During the 1950 African American began to travel off from the unbending techniques and back to more afro centric hair manners. It was at this clip that some creative persons and others began to recognize that some of the gold braid manners in the United States were besides used by adult females in Africa. “ The complex geometric accent in new cornrow styleaˆ¦ is once more an of import reminder that math is every bit much a portion of African heritage as Black hair ” ( Eglash ) .

The geometric constructs used by braiders are interlingual renditions, contemplations, rotary motions and dilations. A plait can be thought of as an loop of braids, where each braid is a type of “ Y ” form ( Eglash ) . As plaits get smaller or larger to make a design this is known as dilation. To acquire the curvy or coiling forms in the designs of the cornrows, rotary motions are used. Translations are used to find the infinite between each completed plait and loop.

Forms can be seen in many facets of nature and are included in the survey of mathematics. Some of these forms that are in nature can besides be recreated by worlds in the signifier of hair gold braid. The connexions between mathematics and the cultural patterns of persons are a portion of a subdivision of mathematics known as ethnomathematics. By looking into ethnomathematics in this manner allows for the pedagogues to do connexions to the lives of pupils to the mathematics that is used in the schoolroom. To understand ethnomathematics a individual must travel “ into a community, analyzing its linguistic communications and values every bit good as its experience with mathematical ideasaˆ¦ ” ( Gilmer, 1997 ) .Once a individual goes into an African American community they may see the “ geometrical designs and forms normally used in hair gold braid and weaving ” ( Gilmer, 1997 ) .

In a survey conducted by Gloria Gilmer ( 1997 ) she wanted to find “ what can the hair lacing enterprise contribute to mathematics instruction and conversely what can mathematics instruction contribute to the hair lacing endeavor? ” ( Gilmer, 1997 ) . After questioning several hair stylist and their clients, she realized that the “ construct of tessellationsaˆ¦ is widely used by the hair braiders and weavers but non thought of by them as being related to mathematics ” ( Gilmer, 1997 ) . The methods used to split the hair can be seen as tessellations of trigons and squares on the scalps of the clients. The method that was used to split the hair determines the motion of the hair when braided.

Gilmer and others are seeking to associate mathematics to the day-to-day lives of pupils in a hope to do the mathematics more interesting. It was besides mentioned that there was a subconscious attempts of White to do the cornrow styles symmetric. “ Most hairdressers have no thought how much mathematics they are utilizing ” ( Math, 2007 ) . Some of the constructs used in the hair manners are algebra to find how much false hair to add into weaves and hair extensions. Physics is used to attach hair weaves and of class the geometry is used in the design of the plaits.



The store was located in an urban country. Inside of the store there were six Stationss. Each station had a swivel chair, a mirror, and a set of shortss with a little counter. There were besides three stoles, that the workers would places at the Stationss when they were working. They besides had a sofa in the forepart of the store for clients to utilize when they arrived. In the dorsum of the store there were two shampoo bowls and a little wall spliting what appeared to be a break country. There was besides a public toilet in that country. The forepart of the shop had glass Windowss. On the Windowss there were posting of adult females and work forces with braided hair designs. There was besides a telecasting with overseas telegram. The walls of the store were painted a green colour. On the walls there were a few postings of Africa and a picture with a flower design.

The store was unfastened seven yearss a hebdomad. The workers would come in every bit early as 7am and remain every bit tardily as 10 autopsy depending on what the client was acquiring done. They would usually take their last client at 7 autopsy. The doors of the store were kept locked. ( There were work forces that would walk into the store and hassle some of the clients was the ground for locking the doors. ) . They besides had man-made and human hair for weaving which is different from lacing hair because the weaving hairs is bounded with a path that is used to run up or paste the hair into topographic point.



This survey used one female participant as a chief focal point. She was 29 and had no kids. She had 4 brothers and she was the lone miss besides her female parent in her immediate household. Her female parent was non able to lace hair. So her female parent would direct her to her aunts to acquire her hair braided to travel to school. This was a demand. Her hair must be orderly and her apparels pressed as portion of unvarying review for her to go to school. Eventually she and her friends would lace each other hair for them to travel to school. Many times hair lacing was used as a manner to interchange gifts. She has been lacing for about 20 old ages but for 7 old ages in the United States. She came here to travel to school and used her hair lacing techniques as a manner to do money for college on a pupil visa. She stated that it was impossible for her parents to direct her money for day-to-day disbursals that tuition did non cover and a household friend told her that she could lace hair for excess money.

The money was reasonably good and she merely had to pay the proprietor of the store a set sum for the usage of the chair each hebdomad. The sum would run from $ 100 to $ 150 a hebdomad. She would besides hold to pay for the hair so this would alter the hebdomadal sum to about $ 200 to $ 250 hebdomad. She considered this to be a good monetary value and could convey place over $ 200 a hebdomad while working portion clip and still traveling to school. ( She did n’t province how much she made now or if she had to pay revenue enhancements on this income. Besides she did n’t province how she was able to remain in the state after her pupil visa ran out. )

Study design/ methods

During this survey observation and interview techniques were utilised. During the bulk of the visit the participant was observed without break and notes were taken on how concern was conducted. During the center of the clip in the store a colloquial interviewing technique was used with a few directed inquiries. These inquiries were used to open the duologue and allowed for the conversation to take a natural class. During the terminal of the clip exhausted observations technique was used once more to see how the dealing was finalized.

Data Collect Instrument:

Below are the prima inquiries that were used during the interview procedure. Not all inquiries were straight answered but this allowed for the conversation between the participant and interviewer to get down.

Questions asked during interview:

How long have you been lacing hair?

How did you larn to lace hair?

How make you cognize how much hair to utilize?

How make you entwine the coloured hair into the plait in such an intricate form?

Are you able to lace a specific figure of plaits?

Make you see yourself to be good at mathematics?


This survey was conducted on a Wednesday forenoon about 7am. An assignment was scheduled for cornrows to be done on that Saturday prior. The hair braider had a cell phone that she used to schedule her clients independent of the store ‘s phone. Observation was used to find the processs used in the hair lacing store for the first hr. During the 2nd hr inquiries were asked to trip a conversation. During the last hr observations were conducted.

Data Observations

During my visit to the salon there was merely one worker at that place. She opened the door and asked me to take a place. She so asked me how I wanted my hair to be braided ( she has a spot of an speech pattern ) . I told her that I wanted cornrows. She so showed me a book with images of plait manners. In the book they had many adult females manners. Many of the manners were really intricate. Some had plaits that curved around the caput and into a pony tail or some type of intricate design on the top. Others had multiple colourss. Some had the plaits braided all the manner till the terminals and other manners were left lose. Some of the plaits were curly at the terminals and others were directly.

Once I selected my manners I was told that I could hold little, medium or big plaits. I was n’t truly certain of the differences in size so I asked for the monetary value difference. The monetary values were $ 65 for the big, $ 85 for the medium, and $ 105 for the little. I selected the medium. She besides asked me which color that I wanted I selected a combination of black and ruddy man-made hair. She besides asked if I wanted two rows or one. I selected two. Then she began the hair lacing procedure. While lacing the hair she either stood up or used the stool.

She divided my hair into two parts by separating my hair horizontally. For the bottom part of my hair she proceeded to lace the hair with 10 perpendicular plaits. This took her about 30 proceedingss to finish. I realized that she did non add in the colourss as I requested when she finished the bottom half. She apologized and said that she would add in the colourss as requested in the top parts but did non remake the bottom half. She so began to finish the top part of the hair. She began in the corner of my caput near the ear. While she was lacing she talked to me a small about the intelligence that was on and the manner that the United States was ever traveling into other states stating that Muslim adult females were oppressed because they decided to cover their hair and organic structures. She was really passionate about this treatment. She besides talked to other workers as they arrived in another linguistic communication.

I asked if she counted to cognize how many plaits to make in that bottom subdivisions she stated that she ne’er truly counted that portion but in most instances it would run from 8 to 12 depending on the size and form of the clients head. I asked how she was able to maintain the hair from unknoting. She stated that she used a technique of doing a little about unseeable knot with the hair. She besides stated that in some cases clients wanted manners that would non suit their caput. I asked what was meant by that and she stated that “ the size and form of a individual ‘s caput and forehead including their hair line truly determines what the manner would look like on a client. ” She stated that “ sometimes a client would come in with a image and I would seek to state them that manner wont look the same on them. ” Many clients would take a firm stand on this styles anyhow and so be frustrated when they did non come out right.

I so asked how she was able to animate manners from images. She said that she fundamentally knew how many plaits to make on each subdivision of the hair and that she could simple expression at a image and animate it. She thought of this ability as a gift non something that was taught but something that you were “ blessed ” with. She thought that “ accomplishments are instruction ” ; something that can be taught. She felt that a individual could develop the accomplishments to lace hair but that to truly be able to make the intricate designs and forms that she was able to make you had to be gifted. She thought of her accomplishment as “ natural ” . She felt like she was given this “ gift from God ” to hold a service to exchange. She compared this ability to abilities such as stitching, horticulture, and woodworking. She said that everyone in her state was given a gift so that they would be able to hold a service to interchange to acquire the things they need. She felt like all of the gifts take “ a batch of subject ” to be able to travel beyond merely a accomplishment.

She besides made some remarks about being able to acknowledge the angles of the caput to find how a manner would look on a client. She felt like she used a batch of mathematics in making the designs but she did non make it consciously. She did hold an thought of the figure of plaits that were in each subdivision of a peculiar manner but all of T this depended upon the size of the individuals forehead, caput and texture of their hair. She did acknowledge that hair gold braid has many forms.

Once she was done lacing my hair she went thru and “ cleaned ” the hair by cutting off the isolated hairs with a scissors. When so trimmed the terminals of the hair to do certain that the hair was even. Then she took the terminals of the hair and dipped them into bowling hot H2O. She used a towel to dry the hair. Then she put mousse on the top of the hair to do certain that any strays would put down. Then she sprayed the full caput with oil shininess. Then she gave me a mirror to analyze her work near up and it was precisely what the image looked like. In the terminal of the clip there she collected the fee of $ 85 ( I did do certain to give her a tip of $ 10 ) .

Datas Analysis

It appears that the hairdresser knew a batch about mathematics and had made several connexions but as she stated she was non cognizant of these mathematical connexions. She was able to retroflex a hair with merely a glimpse which showed that she had a great memory and spacial sense. She seemed to hold a reasonably good defined process for lacing the hair and conducting concern. It was apparent in the intricate designs that she used lines and curves when lacing hair. She was besides able to entwine colourss into the manner. She did non pay much attending to the sum of hair that she was utilizing to lace the hair but she felt that she was reasonably consistent in the sum of hair that she used. It was besides reasonably interesting that she felt that she had a gift for hair gold braid that could non hold been taught, since there are several hair schools learning those accomplishments. It could hold easy been assumed that the sum of clip she spent lacing hair was straight correlated to her abilities in that country and I would presume that the manners that she is able to make now are non the same manners that she was able to make when she was younger. The mathematics that she used was everyplace. She used mathematics in the manner that she divided the hair into two subdivisions, in the choices of the sums of hair to be used to add to each cornrows, in the figure of braids that she used before changing the colourss and in doing certain that the H2O was non excessively hot as to damage the hair of the client. So although the hairdressers may non be cognizant of the sum of mathematics she use, there is an copiousness of mathematics used in the hair lacing procedure.


The correlativity between geometry and hair gold braid is really utile in the school scene. This information can be applied to about any age group. The connexions between mathematics and hairdos are the type of connexions that would convey mathematics to the mundane lives of the pupils. Hair lacing is something that many immature people see in their twenty-four hours to twenty-four hours lives or are exposed to themselves as a portion of their civilization. Subjects that could be used are every bit simple as lines or a complex as fractals. In either instance the correlativities are at that place for the pupils and instructors to research.

It may besides be of involvement to allow those that are hair braiders know how much mathematically skills they use in their day-to-day work. This information would be of involvement to them in a manner to construct assurance in their mathematical accomplishments that could be transferred to their kids. This may diminish the figure of people who use mathematics mundane but do non believe that they are good in mathematics because of a school class in which they were non successful in.


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