Mathematics and Science

Centering Africa in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) Education

This set of resources below was created to support the teacher professional development workshop held on October 16th, 2021.

Click here for videos of the workshop: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3

Click Here  to access the PDF view of resource list.


N’Gen TV Africa Science videos for elementary school:

N*Gen TV Africa Science Videos. Check out the Viewing Guide and Geographical Contexts of the videos in the “Videos” drop-down below.


The Lebombo bone: oldest mathematical artifact

The Lebombo bone (top) is the oldest known mathematical artifact. It is a tally stick with 29 distinct notches that were deliberately cut into a baboon’s fibula. It was discovered within the Border Cave in the Lebombo Mountains of Eswatini. The Lebombo bone (bottom) resembles a calendar stick still used in Namibia. See more about these artifacts under “Other Resources” below.


Storytelling & Science

“The oldest technology of the world is storytelling… We tell stories as a way to make sense of reality…” Listen to author Ben Okri’s eloquent analysis of the intersection of science and stories as a keynote for Strata Europe in 2014.


Books & Articles

Find myriad lessons, activities, and ideas in these books and articles. When the full text is available, it is indicated.

Ethnomathematics and Education in Africa. Gerdes, P. (2014). 

On mathematics in the history of Sub-Saharan Africa  Gerdes, P (1994) Full open access text available here.

Paulus Gerdes of Mozambique – an appreciation (Mathematicians of the African Diaspora M.A.D information page about P. Gerdes which provides an overview of his books

Africa Counts and ethnomathematicsZaslavsky, C. (1994)  Short open access article.

Africa Counts. Zaslavsky, C. (1994) This book covers counting in words and in gestures; measuring time, distance, weight, and other quantities; manipulating money and keeping accounts; number systems; patterns in music, poetry, art, and architecture; and number magic and taboos. African games such as mankala and elaborate versions of tic-tac-toe show how complex this thinking can be. 

Math games and activities from around the world. Zaslavsky, C. (1998). More than 70 math games, puzzles, and projects from all over the world are included in this delightful book for kids.

More math games and activities from around the world.  Zaslavsky, C. (2003).  Math, history, art, and world cultures come together in this delightful book for kids, even for those who find traditional math lessons boring. More than 70 games, puzzles, and projects encourage kids to hone their math skills as they calculate, measure, and solve problems. 

Number sense and nonsense. Zaslavsky, C. (2019). More than 80 games and activities help kids ages 8 and older go beyond just memorizing rules! They will instead learn to think critically about math and how numbers work. Group and individual games teach fun, useful ways to manipulate odd and even numbers, prime and composite numbers, common and decimal fractions, and factors, divisors and multiples of numbers. 

Mathematics in (central) Africa before colonization, an open access article by D. Huylebrouck. A 2019 book by the same author and with the same time title is also available for purchase.

African Mathematics: From Bones to Computers, a book by Abdul Karim Bangura, 2011. Portions of the book are accessible through the link.

Mathematics in Africa has been written out of history books, a 2021 article in The Independent (UK) that traces the absence of African mathematics in history as a result of the slave trade.


See lectures and videos that can inspire and guide you as you embrace centering Africa in STEAM:

Emerging Superstar: Science is Cool! NextGen TV with Dr. Joy Kiano a 30-minute conversation with Dr. Kiano about the first Pan-African TV station. 

NGen science videos – an outstanding resources for bringing African contexts into your science classroom

Africa: The Cradle of Mathematical Sciences – A lecture by Thierry Zomahoun

Documenting the History of Black Mathematicians – American Mathematical Society event on October 9, 2020, Nira Chamberlain, Edray Goins, Talitha Washington, John Weaver, and Scott Williams discuss this history.

African Fractal origins of Math: Dr. Ron Eglash: Pt 1

African Fractal origins of Math: Dr. Ron Eglash: Pt 2

An ethnomathematician who studies the ways math and culture interact on the African continent. Eglash’s work as Fulbright scholar was published as African Fractals: modern computing and indigenous design. His NSF-funded research on “Culturally Situated Design Tools” allows youth to simulate indigenous and vernacular arts using “heritage algorithms” from those traditions. This is one component of his “generative justice” project, which seeks ways to shift science and innovation in service of a just and sustainable circular economy.

Gizo-Gizo at the Library of Congress – meet Emily Williamson Ibrahim, the author of Gizo Gizo and listen to the read-aloud of this place-based education book set in the Zongo Lagoon in Ghana.

Storytelling and Science, a Strata Talk by Ben Okri

I Will Be a Hummingbird – an exquisite short folktale, by Wangari Mathai, on environmental action

Listen to Kenyans tell of how Wangari Maathai & the environmental movement changed  their lives. 

Other Online Resources

Mathematicians of the African Diaspora  (M.A.D.) CONTENTS

Mathematicians of the African Diaspora presents THE ANCIENTS

Ancient African Mathematics – Ancient Math – Taneter African mathematics (Ancient African History)

The Lebombo Bone: The Oldest Mathematical Artifact The Mathematical Gazette. Cambridge University press. A short description of the tally marks on the Ishango Bone.

Math Games from Around the World, featuring instructions to play the Mancala and other games from Nigeria and Mozambique


Professional Organizations:

The Algebra Project (Bob Moses)

African Mathematical Union. Professional  in Rabat in 1976 during the first pan-African Congress, it aims to promote quality research, teaching, and outreach on mathematical activities in Africa.

Science is Cool: A Free Virtual Unconference for Teachers


Background on African Mancala Traditions.Mancala games involve strategy, skill, and are a great way of developing students’ arithmetic. This workshop from the Savannah African Art museum presents useful background, instructions for playing and includes even an online Mancala game!

Drum Beating and Foot Stomping (PBS) In this lesson, students watch African dances and calculate tempo along with other mathematical functions. It draws on this video of E Sin Mi d’Africa whereby Bi-Okoto Drum and Dance Theatre performs a welcome dance that combines movements from several traditional dances of the Yoruba people of Nigeria.

Rethinking Mathematicsan excellent publication from Rethinking Schools, features activities and articles to draw on.

Gerdes, P. New designs from Africa: Inspiration from traditional Angolan Designs

On Storytelling and Science

Click HERE for the folder of resources on Storytelling science, compiled by Susan Douglass, featuring stories on Human migration and DNA, Iron, and technologies in the Niger River Inland Delta

Storytelling and Science, a Strata Talk by Ben Okri

Uniting science and stories: Perspectives on the value of storytelling for communicating science, an article by Green, Grorud and Mannix (2018)

Science and Storytelling, a Ted Talk by Lyucy Hawking, daughter of the famous astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. Not Africa-related, but worth checking out for inspiration.

Zongo Story Project: Emily Williamson Ibrahim and John Schaidler

The story of Onesimus: 9th grade students at Foxborough Regional Charter High School researched, wrote, and read the story of Onesimus, the pioneer West African who spread his wisdom and knowledge of inoculation, as an enslaved person in Boston.

Africa Writes, The Royal African Society: Launched in 2012, Africa Writes showcases established and emerging talent from the African continent and its diaspora in what is now the UK’s biggest celebration of contemporary African writing taking place over an exciting summer weekend. *Free online creative writing classes for young learners 

Play Africa: Play Africa has developed an open-source toolkit, which supports local adaptation and implementation of Play Africa’s “Designing with Children” workshop. We developed this toolkit to build the capacity of placemakers, educators and others to lead a participatory workshop to positively influence the development of more child-friendly, safe and playful urban environments, with a focus on African cities and towns. This toolkit can be used by everyone to create a playful learning experience for children while empowering them to imagine an improved community.

Catchlight supports the power of visual storytelling to foster a more nuanced and empathetic understanding of the world, with the goal to discover, develop and amplify visual storytellers.