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Kinship and mathematics

Recently, ATSIMA was contacted about resources for this interesting topic. We had a request for a diagram and any other resources relating to the Australian Curriculum content elaboration: investigating the use of rotation and symmetry in the diagrammatic representations of kinship relationships of Central and Western Desert people.

Thanks to those of you who sent us information which has been collated below:

We're interested to know your thoughts or experiences and any resources you are aware of that makes connections between kinship and mathematics. Please contribute to this blog and take the conversation further!

From the Aranda ‘marriage rules’. Source: Strehlow 1913.
"This system, called by Aboriginal people in central Australia ‘skin’, has been chartered by the Institute of Aboriginal Development."

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Kids Creoles and Classroom Symposium

In April this year, I attended a symposium at Charles Darwin University (CDU) called the Kids Creoles and Classrooms Symposium; my first symposium since moving to Darwin at the beginning of the year. 

The symposium was predominantly about languages (obviously) exploring connections between Traditional languages, Creoles and Aboriginal English and how you would value and use these languages in the classroom. There were also two presentations about the teaching and learning of mathematics and the use of Creoles and Traditional language.

The first thing I learnt was that linguists have shown that the structure of Aboriginal English is the same as the Traditional language it is derived from. This was a revelation for me since Aboriginal English, through my experience, is generally denigrated as not being proper i.e. a bad English and now for the first time Aboriginal English is part of our resilience and survival in the face of colonisation. This type of resilience reminds me of the Yarrabah Community in North Queensland who are attempting to get their Creole recognised as a separate language. The spectrum of languages needs to be valued, particularly by the education system, as an important part of our identity and culture.

The second thing I learnt was how strongly some non-Aboriginal people believe that Aboriginal people had no form of mathematics. In one of the sessions were three Senior Aboriginal Women, Hilda Ngalmi, Josephine Numamurdirdi and Faye Manggurra, who work extensively with the school in their Community Numbulwar. Hilda, Josephine and Faye presented a place value activity. During the activity, the Women spoke only in their language, which was a combination of their traditional language and their creole. After the activity, an interesting question was raised about the language around “a half” since the activity did involve halving a rope to find the position for certain numbers. The question was “What is the language you used for a half?”. There was an immediate audience response like an audible mumble of “It must be creole”; however, the response from the women was “It is a word from their traditional language”. Individuals in the audience then asked, “are you sure it’s not creole”, which the women calmly responded, “no it is our traditional language”. This extra enquiry happened twice so in total the woman had to say “no it is our traditional language” three times. I was left wondering whether individuals in the audience still didn’t believe them.

There is a very strong belief that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures have no connection to mathematics; a belief held by educators and researchers. Harris' paper in the 80s attempted to dispel this myth and I think it is timely to revisit this paper. To get to Harris paper click on the blue text above which will get you to the enthomathematic site at AIATSIS. Scroll down to the first Harris paper titled "Australian Aboriginal and Islander mathematics". You may wish to browse further than this one paper.

Please let me know what you think. Apologies for being so slack at blogging. I will attempt to blog more regularly.

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Why I am Blogging

As part of the development of ATSIMA, I thought I would start my first ever blog. The idea behind the blog is to share with the membership

  • what I have been doing;
  • to brainstorm new pedagogy ideas on maths education; and
  • general issues around mathematics education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

It is meant to be informal information sharing and your response on any of the posts are welcomed and valued. We are very interested in what you think. Over the next couple of days I will be blogging about a symposium I attended regarding using Creole (or Kriol) in the classroom. I want to share the key points I got from the symposium and please share any thoughts you may have on these key points.

Talk again soon....   


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