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Making maths unique to Cook Islands context

Friday 10 June 2022 | Written by Caleb Fotheringham | Published in Education, National


Making maths unique to Cook Islands context
Robyn Jorgensen (back left), Strickland Upu (back right), Jodie Hunter (front left) and Bobbie Hunter (front right) discuss with junior teachers how mathematics can be taught in a Cook Islands context. Photo: Caleb Fotheringham/22060907

A group of junior syndicate teachers meet at the Ministry of Education on Thursday to help form a new mathematics curriculum based uniquely on the Cook Islands context.

Jodie Hunter, an associate professor at Massey University, New Zealand, is one of four people leading the group of local teachers.

Jodie said taking an approach to maths based on a Cook Islands context meant students could see themselves linked to mathematics in everyday life.

“It helps their achievement because they can access the mathematics in the tasks.”

Ministry of Education mathematics advisor, Strickland Upu gave an example of family’s working together to mow a lawn and how that could be translated to fractions.

 “(The family) divide the section amongst themselves and they will just mow their bit and then another one will come and mow their bit,” Upu said. 

“That is all part and parcel of what kids do here which is mathematics but it’s not recognised as mathematics, it’s just work done at home.”

Strickland said maths activities out of a text book from a papaa context did not make sense for some children.

Jodie said taking a Cook Islands context approach meant children were much more engaged.

“Also the kids start talking, ‘it’s good to be a Cook Islander because we’re good at maths and we do maths all the time’.”

Junior syndicate teachers took part in a discussion about teaching mathematics in a Cook Islands context. Photo: Caleb Fotheringham/22060908

Bobbie Hunter, professor of Pasifika Education Studies at Massey University, said the new approach to maths was also to promote working together.

“That comes naturally to Cook Islands children because that’s what they do as a family, a family unit does that as one.”

Robyn Jorgensen, a professor at Emeritus University of Canberra, said it was about trying to shift what normally happened in maths.

“What normally happens in maths, it’s a single linear process where some kids succeed and some kids don’t,” Jorgensen said.

“This is flipping on its head and saying everyone does maths … what is that maths is depending on where you are, it gives legitimacy to the experiences of the children, it gives it a foundation to teach from and then you can go from there.”

She said it meant kids are not getting “locked out” of maths because they think they’re bad.

At the end of 2023, Jodie said the overall goal was to have a website with maths resources freely available to teachers unique to the Cook Islands context.