Today was the final day of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mathematics Alliance (ATSIMA) Conference 2016. Held on Tharawal land in the coastal city of Wollongong, those in the education profession; teachers, professors, business owners and members of the community gathered together to 'Value Aboriginal people; their education and their future' in schools and education facilities.
ATSIMA Chair, Dr Chris Matthews, who holds a PhD in Applied Mathematics has been a strong advocate for greater Indigenous perspectives within mathematics education and believes events like ATSIMA conference which finished up today provide an important opportunity for Aboriginal teachers and community members to discuss the different ways they already incorporate Indigenous knowledges into mathematics education, both traditionally and within school systems,
"We're about transforming ways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learners to be more successful in maths," he told NITV "How connecting culture with maths can achieve this, and how creating more innovative ways of teaching is a part of it."
"The National curriculum does not include Aboriginal perspectives within mathematics and science, only the social sciences and history subjects. But we are not disconnected from maths and science, because maths and science is just a way of looking at the world - something every culture has - and we do that from our own point of view."
"Aboriginal culture looks at how everything is balanced and how things exist in different states - these are all very mathematical ideas."
"Aboriginal people order things and categorise things, we have rules and structure," Dr Matthews continues. "Aboriginal culture looks at how everything is balanced and how things exist in different states - these are all very mathematical ideas. There's also diversity in the way different language groups count, some languages are more based around additives and some are more about grouping numbers, for example five, ten, fifteen and so on."
The issue of including Indigenous perspectives across the curriculum, particularly within the sciences, is one that has been highly politicised in recent years and Dr Matthews hopes that forums such as this will help 'create dialogue and demystify this important topic.'
"The first thing for me at the conference, was this buzz of enthusiasm from teachers, policy makers who are engaged with seeing mathematics from an Indigenous point of view and discussing the different languages and philosophies in Aboriginal cultures.
"It's was the non-Indigenous teachers, who are teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, who were very interested and my excitement at this conference is seeing the attendees get something from the discussion and have a new found enthusiasm to take that back to the kids. To try ideas. We will be having another conference in 2018 and hopefully these teachers will come back share their experiences from implementing ideas at this years' forums."
Jade Kennedy, researcher of the SMART Infrastructure Facility at the University of Wollongong, said that Dr Matthews and the organising team were able to attract a really high quality of delegates who 'get it', who appreciate the dynamics within education and how it affects Indigenous kids.
"What you've got here is a great mix on Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who are all fighting for the same cause. It's been great for us here in the Wollongong community to connect with all these people, all working together, it's been really inspirational for us to see how it can be done. Events like this help to activate the local grassroots community, it gives us inspiration and motivation to say "There's amazing things that we can do when we work together."