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Cluster focus

Will investigative approaches to teaching and learning mathematics improve engagement of Indigenous learners in the middle years?

Under the broad focus of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island students learning mathematics, we had two particular emphases:

  • investigative approaches to teaching and learning mathematics (e.g., maths300, Deadly-Yumi Maths)
  • middle school (Years 5 – 9).

Also, right from the beginning the cluster acknowledged that the key to improving mathematical learning for Indigenous students was to improve teacher pedagogy and therefore a significant focus was on teacher professional development.

The following key findings have arisen for the participants in regards to Indigenous students learning mathematics:

  • building sound, warm, professional relationships with students (and their families) is crucial
  • learning is enhanced when appropriate hands-on material is used and problem solving that is related to ‘real-life’ is explored
  • it is important to pay attention to students’ attitudes, emotions and motivation
  • it is important to tap into other resources and Indigenous people in the school.

View a slideshow from Tannum Sands State School:

Why we did it

We wanted to maximise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders students' learning in mathematics and development of numeracy in the middle years with the idea that students would be more likely to continue doing mathematics in the senior years and thus improve their employment opportunities.

How we did it

Throughout the project, teachers were engaged in cycles of action research and were closely supported by the Cluster Critical Friend, Associate Professor Peter Grootenboer from Griffith University.


We used different forms of data collection and analysis.