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What is the project about?


The Mathematics in Indigenous Contexts project focuses on the development of culturally and contextually appropriate teaching units for Mathematics. To achieve this, the targeted schools and teachers were supported by experienced teachers and university mentors who acted as critical friends. They assisted schools/teachers to engage with Aboriginal community members in the development of context-based curriculum.

The project, which provided a focus for Stage 2, also gave teachers a curriculum focus opportunity to work with the new draft Mathematics K-6 Syllabus. Participating teachers had access to key curriculum writers, Board curriculum officers, Departmental staff and key school staff, including the Aboriginal Education Assistant.

Audio transcript of project explanation

Target schools

The project called for working with schools in different locations, of different sizes, and with diverse staff and communities, to find out if the proposed model could work in different locations. Contact was made with several schools with significant Aboriginal student enrolments and their involvement in the project was negotiated. Crawford Public School, a large western Sydney school, and Walhallow Public School, a small rural school situated in the Walhallow Community at Caroona, south of Tamworth, readily agreed to participate in the year-long project.


The steering committee for the project identified a range of possible challenges that needed to be addressed during the project. These included:

  • analysis of numeracy data using existing school and BST information to identify the areas where students experienced difficulty
  • contextual curriculum design. Ways of providing experiences and strategies in which students gain meaning and develop appropriate language that enables them to extend their skills in Western Mathematics were explored.
  • community and parent involvement. The project promoted the involvement of teachers with parents and community in the early planning processes, providing opportunities for each group to develop effective and positive learning relationships and assisting in anchoring context in the world that makes sense to those communities. It was anticipated that this would lead to an understanding of the learning needs of students and a heightened awareness of the key role that parents play in supporting and being closely involved in their child's learning
  • achievement of curriculum standards. The small body of research in this area suggests that when culturally inclusive curricula and pedagogy are adopted by schools and teachers, delivered in a way which accounts for the diversity of students' backgrounds and starting points, and formative assessment (which is culturally and contextually appropriate) is used to rigorously monitor students' progress, the achievement of Aboriginal students improves significantly and allows them to demonstrate learning (Frigo & Simpson, p 1). See Research into the Numeracy Development of Aboriginal students: Implications for the NSW K-10 Mathematics Syllabus.
  • assessment challenges. These challenges needed to demonstrate that assessments are culturally appropriate, are contextual in their development and design, are rich in their design, and provide opportunities for students to demonstrate real learning
  • meeting school needs. This included consultation meetings with staff to identify those staff open to developing collaborative partnerships with teacher mentors on a project that fitted in with school priorities, ie Mathematics and parent participation
  • issues for teachers and the school relevant to the implementation of the new syllabus.
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What is the project about?