Native American Students & Tasks

We are indebted to the Mathematical Association of Victoria for keeping this history on their site from 2001 until 2008.

In 1999 Dr. Judith Hankes and Dr. Gerald R. Fast, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh became interested in the work of the Task Centre Project with Australian Aboriginal students. The work had been developing since 1993 and at the time was being included within:

  • Maths? No Fear! (MNF) project of the Northern Territory, and
  • Improving Numeracy for Indigenous Students in Secondary Schools (INISSS) project in Tasmania.
Oneida Nation Elementary School 1

Green Line

Judith and Gerald visited the Northern Territory and the following is an outline of events that transpired as a result:

Oneida Nation Elementary School 2

Oneida Nation Elementary School, Gymnasium and Classrooms
  • Following further discussions they arranged an initial professional development session run by Australian leaders in Wisconsin.
  • The success of this session encouraged them to arrange with the Oneida Nation Tribal School, Green Bay, for provision of an Aboriginal Task Centre kit, a Maths300 membership and a full week of professional development with an Australian leader. This happened in August 2000.
  • Building on this success, in March 2001, they organised another general information sharing workshop for teachers of Native Americans. Some of the sessions were led by a teacher from the Oneida school and some by an experienced Task Centre teacher from Tennessee.

  • As a result of attending this session:
    • Jan Martin, Assessment and Evaluation Coordinator, Todd County School District, South Dakota instituted action to resource and train teachers involved with attendance centres on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation and teachers at other district schools.
    • Two teachers from Wisconsin schools wrote to Judith and Gerald with the following words of support:
      Shirley Anderson
      Math Teacher
      Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe High School

      (Extracts from letter dated March 12, 2001)
      I recently attended a workshop coordinated by Dr. Gerald Fast and Dr. Judith Hankes. They have begun a summer pre-college program to give students a college experience and increase problem solving skills that have worked successfully with several students. Some of my students were involved in the program and I can definitely see improvement in their dedication to mathematics and future education. Another facet involved finding a curriculum that would better match the learning styles of native children. They have found that in an Australian curriculum. They are now teaching teachers how to use it and how it matches the United States' Math Standards very effectively.

      This was the type of workshop I attended. I saw many applications of the program and saw the matches between it and the NCTM. It also provides the connections in the materials, though of course teachers will expand on those, but it is good to give us a starting point. The activities actively involved students and allowed for creative thinking, cooperative learning, math without some of the usual stresses and many problem-solving strategies.

      Robert L. von Haden Jr.
      Mathematics/German Teacher
      Oneida Nation High School

      (Extracts from letter dated March 16, 2001)
      On behalf of the other two Oneida Nation School District employees and myself, I would like to thank you for making such a beneficial training experience available to teachers of Native American students. The materials that you furnished us with are already being utilized to nourish the students' interests for critical thinking, problem solving and decision-making skills in a new and unique manner. This was my first exposure to this type of activity and I could barely contain my enthusiasm.

      The Monday I returned from this training, all of my classes participated in the Greedy Pig game. I wish you could have seen the expressions on the faces of the students who had previously thought math was a 'boring' subject. I intend to use at least one of these activities each week to help the students develop their critical thinking skills.

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