The value of perseverance: Using Dakota culture to teach mathematics

  • AnnMaria De Mars National University
  • Erich Longie
Keywords: Native American, Dakota, values, education, mathematics


Cultural appropriation is a legitimate concern of indigenous people. In the United States, non-natives have copied native culture in everything from Native American themed parties to celebrities in costume to lingerie ads. The backlash from indigenous communities to this mimicry is understandable.

Video games offer a more functional application of Native American culture, specifically, Dakota culture. While at first glance, traditional Dakota values and educational video games may be an unexpected combination, there is much more to being a Dakota than regalia, pow-wows and sweat lodges. Other cultures that wish to copy the Dakota are advised to copy these values – honesty, courage, generosity and perseverance. Both the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Common Core standards emphasize the importance of perseverance in mathematics.  The very first standard of mathematical practice is “Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them”.  Spirit Lake: The Game is an example of how the value of perseverance in the context of traditional Native American culture can be applied in contemporary society. Efficacy of the game in increasing mathematics achievement was tested with a sample of fourth- and fifth-grade students from two reservation schools. Students playing the game showed significantly greater improvement in mathematics achievement from pre- to post-test.

Author Biography

AnnMaria De Mars, National University
Dr. De Mars has a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology, with a specialization in Applied Statistics and Psychometrics and over 30 years of experience in evaluation research. She is president of 7 Generation Games and an adjunct professor in the Department of Applied Engineering at National University.
How to Cite
De Mars, A., & Longie, E. (2018). The value of perseverance: Using Dakota culture to teach mathematics. Transmotion, 4(2), 113-131. Retrieved from
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