Tuesday, 17 Aug 2010

For immediate release Monday 16 August 2010
Culture and language must be considered in mathematics learning

Planning for quality learning in maths must take culture, language, attendance and core mathematical understanding into consideration to help Indigenous learners succeed, according to a paper presented earlier today at the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) annual conference in Melbourne.

Griffith University Professor of Education, Robyn Jorgensen, told conference delegates that Indigenous students may have gaps in their mathematical understanding, lower attendance rates, culture and languages that are significantly different from that of mainstream schools.

“Teachers need to develop skills that will enable them to learn to plan and adapt to these challenges,” Jorgensen said.

Professor Jorgensen pointed to statistics that show attendance rates for Indigenous secondary school students decline as the level of remoteness increases. This may be attributed to the fact that in many remote areas, cultural activities take priority over schooling and result in substantive periods of missed school.

“Never sure if there will be one or two students or 20 students, teachers are required to be professional and prepare as if there will be a full contingent of students attending,” Jorgensen said.

According to Professor Jorgensen, the mathematical understanding of Indigenous students in remote communities is further complicated by the limited need for number and text.

“Many remote Indigenous students do not know their age or birthday; few have phones in the home; streets are not named or numbered; there is no need for large numbers.”

Jorgensen said the teaching force in remote areas is predominantly early career teachers who have had little or no exposure to remote education, to working with Indigenous students and communities and to teaching as a profession, which can contribute to high turnover rates and difficulties in retaining teachers in remote areas.

“Beginning and established teachers need to be able to develop innovative models of planning for diversity in learning needs and demands of remote education,” Professor Jorgensen said. “Working within the existing dominant concepts will not produce the outcomes required for successful Indigenous education.”

ACER Research Conference 2010, Teaching Mathematics? Make it count, takes place at the Crown Conference Centre, Melbourne on 16 and 17 August. Further information is available from http://research.acer.edu.au/research_conference/RC2010/


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