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Apsáalooke Writing Tribal Histories Project

Subject: Math

Grade: 5-8

Topic: Math

Content: Students will use the math concepts of ratio, proportion, percentage and scientific notation to calculate the amount of meat obtained from an animal when prepared using the traditional Apsáalooke method of drying meat.

Goals: Students will apply computations of ratio, proportion, percentage and scientific notation to problems of the real world.


Math Standard 1: Students engage in the mathematical processes of problem solving and reasoning, estimation, communication, connections and applications, and using appropriate technology.

Math Standard 2: Students demonstrate understanding of an ability to use numbers and operations.

Math Standard 3: Students use algebraic concepts, processes, and language to model and solve a variety of real-world and mathematical problems.

Essential Understanding 3: The ideologies of Native traditional beliefs and spirituality persist into modern day life as tribal cultures, traditions, and languages are still practiced by many American Indian people and are incorporated into how tribes govern and manage their affairs. Additionally, each tribe has its own oral histories, which are as valid as written histories. These histories pre-date the “discovery” of North America.

Objectives: After completing this lesson students will know how to complete word problems using percentages, proportions, and ratio.

Materials: Lesson plan

Introduction: Large game like buffalo, elk, and deer, are a staple in the diet of many Apsáalooke families. The Apsáalooke are at liberty to hunt on reservation tribal lands throughout the year. They are not allowed to hunt anywhere else for free, or at any time of year. The Apsáalooke Nation has its own Fish and Game Department; one of the responsibilities of the department is to manage hunting on Tribal lands. Non-Tribal members are not allowed to hunt anything, at anytime, on the reservation, unless, on rare occasions, issued a permit by the Fish and Game Department.

Apsáalooke people dry their meat as a means of preserving it. The method of preservation is: Slice meat thinly or fillet into thin pieces. Hang these over a pole or rack in a dry place. Turn the meat occasionally so that it dries well and quickly. Many families have an old tipi pole hanging in their kitchen or somewhere else in the house of this purpose. If meat is dried in the summer prior to Crow fair then it is dried outside, and it is not uncommon for the children of the house to be asked to keep the birds and flies away from the drying meat. Most young Apsáalooke men hunt, but a hunter never takes an entire animal home, rather he disperses the animal among his grandmothers, aunties, and sisters.

Development: This exercise will give students a better understanding of the labor involved in feeding a family with subsistence hunting methods. Most Apsáalooke families do not have a deep freeze, and most eat a significant amount of game meat each year. Discuss how families in your classroom feed themselves. Does anyone have a garden? How does their family determine how much to plant? Etc.

Practice: As a way to use proportion and percents, describe how the big game animal will shrink if preserved by drying. Ask the students to devise a way to figure out how much meat they will end up with after a 200 lb. (on the hoof) animal is dried. If you don’t have the resources to attempt various solutions, you can add some details after the students have had an opportunity to share possible strategies. The additional information needed to solve the problem follows: A typical big game animal will lose 20 percent of its mass after you remove the hooves and hide and strip all the meat from its bones. The drying process will then take away another 40 percent of its mass. Provide students with manipulatives to discover what 20 percent of 200 would be. Once students come up with solutions, continue to challenge them to figure out a proportion, so that they can use it to find out the mass loss for any given weight of an animal. In addition, students can actually dehydrate some foods to discover proportionate loss in mass. Try apples and bananas or even some meat.

Checking for Understanding/Evaluation: Evaluate students using a teacher made test in which students apply the concepts of ratio, proportion, percent and scientific notation.

Closure: Instructors may ask students to follow this lesson with some consumer math. What percentage of a family’s income is spent on food? If they have to travel far for groceries how much is spent on gas? How much food does the family procure on its own?