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Maths challenges day

Cluster story

Lisa Gray
Cluster Coordinator
Tannum Sands State School
Gladstone Cluster

The Gladstone Cluster in regional Queensland consists of two primary and three high schools. Throughout the project the cluster has liaised with the local Indigenous community. In mid-2011, a meeting was held with representatives from the leadership and teaching staff of the schools, leaders and parents from the Indigenous community, and representatives from the education system. This meeting was held at a non-school site. During a part of the meeting the Indigenous community members met alone to discuss and come to some consensus on what they would like the schools, through their teachers, to do to help their children improve their mathematical outcomes. The main request the Indigenous parents and leaders had was that the teachers should get to know their children better, particularly outside of the formal classroom setting. In short, they wanted the teachers to have a stronger relationship with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island students.

The Maths Challenges Days reported on here was a collaborative response after listening to members of the local Aboriginal community. It was built around teachers and students relating to each other in meaningful ways as they engaged in shared mathematical experiences. The first event was held in 2011 and another in 2012. This will now be an annual event for the schools in the Gladstone region.

Maths Challenges Day 2011

The first Maths Challenges Day was held in October on the foreshore at Tannum Sands and all the Indigenous students in Years 5 – 9 from the participating schools were invited. The day began with all students getting to know each other and then we split into smaller groups and began rotating mathematics activities. The students worked through a variety of challenges and ended with the team-building challenge of building a geodesic dome.

The day culminated with the yarning circle and this allowed students to share their feelings and experiences of the day. With the primary students, it was predominantly positive.

Overall the day was very successful and it provided a valuable opportunity for teachers to work and converse with their students in a different environment. In general, the students were confident and willing to participate in the mathematical challenges, although the hands-on activities proved to be much more of a success than the pencil and paper tasks. The tasks that had multiple pathways for finding solutions were particularly successful, as were activities that promoted deep rich mathematical discussion. Both primary and secondary students cooperated well in their groups, and many of the students displayed leadership qualities, although the structure of the day wasn’t conducive to interaction between students from other schools. The only disappointing aspect of the day was the non-involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members...

Maths challenges day

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