Figurative Fractions

An investigation of the proportions of Native American totem poles leads to the application of fractions and percentages in the design and construction of students’ own. Discussion takes place about the history, uses and significance of totem poles in Native American societies.

Mathematical Concepts

  • Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions
  • Least common denominator
  • Ratios and proportions
  • Estimating fractions and percents 


Totem II no backgroundIt takes many people to raise a finished totem pole – over 100 to carry it and many more to dig the hole that holds the base. The pole is leaned into the hole with ropes tied around it; many people then pull on the ropes to get it upright. Raising the totem pole was cause for special ceremonies and a great feast, called a “potlatch.”