Introduction to the Northern Territory Manual
We are indebted to the Mathematical Association of Victoria for keeping this history on their site from 1998 until 2008.
Through 1993 many remote Northern Territory teachers, supported by a grant from the Disadvantaged Schools Component of the Department of Employment, Education and Training, developed and trialed many hands-on tasks. The kit they created and the professional development program that they recommended to accompany its introduction began our work supporting teachers of Indigenous students. The opening paragraphs from the original manual are recorded below to capture a sense of the intent of those pioneering teachers. Their advice is just as relevant today.
Welcome To The Adventure
The task centre resource which accompanies these notes, the workshop which explores the ways you can make best use of resource, and this handbook have grown out of your colleagues efforts to improve teaching and learning for Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory.
All aspects of the package have been selected by teachers and for
teachers based on trial experiences and an extensive consultation process.
They believe their classrooms have become better learning centres through
both the flexibility and challenge of the material, and the opportunity
they have had to review their teaching strategies.
Borders on the task cards were designed by children from
Neutral Junction and Milikapiti schools.
This document records the chalkface wisdom of the bush teachers who
have led the way. It is their intention that other teachers benefit from
their efforts, yet, it is clear that it has been the struggle itself which
has produced the changes. Therefore, this document makes no attempt to
remove the need to make choices in your own situation. It illustrates
choices others have made and something of the resulting consequences, so
that you may take from it whatever guidance is appropriate.
The accompanying workshop has been designed to provide the time and
stimulation which allow you to make your own choices about the use of
material, and alterations to your teaching style, in a reasoned and
reasonable manner. For the contributors to this project, making changes to
their teaching has led to an exciting classroom adventure which continues
day-by-day; sometimes with ease, sometimes with difficulty, and always
with the rewards that show in children's satisfaction with learning. Their
Aboriginal Students' Mathematical Experiences
Maths, to be
taught effectively in any community, has to begin where the children are,
with the language and the knowledge to which their developing conceptual
view of the world is related. It must move with the children as they
develop mathematical concepts in relevant and meaningful situations which
are organised for them in such a way that further mathematical ideas
But how often do the words used in Aboriginal schools . . .
particularly in maths lessons . . . evoke mental pictures or concepts that
differ from those of children who grow up speaking English and with a
conceptual view of the world related to the Western system of knowledge?
What is perhaps even more alarming is that teachers are often unaware that
this is happening and when the child fails to act intelligently in certain
situations the teacher gives up trying to teach maths effectively and
concentrates on teaching 'sums' at which Aboriginal children with their
strong aural and visual memories gain some measure of success.
Can We Count on Maths?, p 135, Beth Graham, Living and
Learning in an Aboriginal Community, 2nd edition, Northern Territory
Department of Education
I will list . . . key ingredients of an effective teaching
methodology for English language, culture and content in the remote
Two Way Aboriginal Schooling, p 144 & 145, Stephen Harris, Aboriginal Studies Press
- Make use of the teaching triangle . . . share an experience, that is, do something together; talk about it; then record it in some way.
- Encourage academically purposeful learning. ... The three aspects of the cycle are that learners must have a consciously clear goal of what is to be learned; they must believe that they have individual control over the learning task in the sense that they are responsible for their own learning and that they can do it; and they must be able to accept and use teacher feedback positively.
The use of a task centre resource can promote the effective teaching of
mathematics in Aboriginal schools. The variety within the resource and the
flexibility with which it can be used are consistent with Harris'
suggestions. Both teacher and student are encouraged to engage with
non-rote problem solving tasks. Experience in the trial schools has shown
that when using this resource, students are in a better position to make
use of their intelligence and teachers are in a better position to
recognise that intelligence, and act on it to promote further learning.
Parent and Community Involvement
This promotion of better learning
and teaching can be isolated within the classroom, or, more powerfully,
can involve the whole community. Various schools have made use of the
following techniques both in the classroom and in the community:
- working in groups with a range of ability levels
- poster problems - a whole class activity
- working in pairs
- working in the community at a prearranged venue - someone's house,
- inviting parents or relevant community groups to join the class, eg:
- allowing the students to take tasks home
- finding opportunities to share with others, eg official visits, open
- homework centres
- starting a task competition in the local newspaper
- starting the Family Maths program
- developing a maths interest group in the community.
What is a Mathematics Task Centre?
Task centres are collections of
individually housed mathematics problems which use concrete materials to
solve, or make a start on, the problem.
Teachers testify that a Problem Solving Task Centre is a valuable
resource in developing problem solving skills as it:
- provides students with a variety of tasks to explore
- provides poster problems for the teacher to use in whole class
situations to model various strategies and encourage the development of
problem solving skills
- provides 'a positive response to the use of mathematics as a tool in
practical situations' (A National Statement on Mathematics for
Australian Schools, p. 215 Curriculum Corporation)
A Problem Solving Task Centre kit can help a teacher make a positive
start on the challenge of using problem solving to develop higher order
thinking skills, without replacing the teacher or the professional
relationship with students. Although task centres are only one of several
resources for teaching/learning oriented towards problem solving, it has
been found that they are a great 'kick start'. In the form provided as the
Task Centre Kit for Aboriginal Schools, teachers have become enthused
with their students' responses and looked with new eyes at other fruitful
materials such as the MCTP Activity Banks. (MCTP Activity Banks Volumes 1
& 2, Curriculum Corporation)
The Development Process for Aboriginal Schools
Aboriginal schools became aware of the existence of the task centre
resource through various professional development programs. They
recognised the potential of the resource and began a process of trial and
review of existing Curriculum Corporation material to determine
adaptations necessary for these remote schools. This process extended over
almost two years in various schools throughout the Territory. It
culminated in a writing conference attended by the teachers listed below. The material these teachers chose, adapted and created for
the task cards and this book was then designed and published by Curriculum
The contributors also realised that the project was not simply about
producing print materials. The learning process which resulted in this
material, expanded their approach to teaching in Aboriginal schools. The
accompanying professional development course is their attempt to develop
such changes among their colleagues in the Territory.
and several other Northern Territory teachers
over a period of two years.
|Tribute is also paid to:
Charles Lovitt, Curriculum Corporation & Doug Williams, Consultant, Melbourne for their ability to co-ordinate and stimulate such a diverse and geographically isolated group of teachers.
The original professional development program has extended and refined over time and has become the Maths on the Move one day program titled Indigenous Students Working Mathematically.