Math in the News: Better Ways to Teach Math to Aboriginal Students

Indigenous students in Australia typically lag two years behind other kids in math: a disappointing statistic by any measure. Dr Chris Matthews of Griffith University has come up with a new approach that shows great promise for connecting indigenous kids with mathematics.

Going further, I believe that this new method would help any kids of a non-mainstream background to understand math. Watch the video for more:

The approach recommended by Dr Matthews is explained by Prof Tom Cooper of the YuMi Deadly Centre at QUT, using the acronym RAMR:

  • Reality: connect first of all with students’ existing culture and interests. In the case of indigenous kids, this includes story telling and dance
  • Abstraction: come up with ways to turn stories and concerns into mathematical problems, equations and so on
  • Mathematics: invent mathematics in standard symbolic format to capture the original question or scenario
  • Reflect: consider the result and match the mathematical results with the original source situation and consider how well the mathematics enabled the solution for the problem, or explained a story in mathematical terms

[Click the link below to watch Prof Cooper’s explanation]

But a teacher who teaches students of non-indigenous but also non-mainstream backgrounds could adopt the same basic pedagogy, starting with those students stories, culture and questions that interest them.

Mathematics has sadly often been presented as the product of a lot of “old white males”, which for some students immediately puts them offside and makes math irrelevant and boring, in those students’ minds. This approach deals with this problem by starting with examples from the students’ own culture and background.

What do you think?

How should we teach math to students from backgrounds other than our own? Share a comment below.

Reference Articles

SUBSCRIBE to Professor Pete’s Classroom on YouTube to learn more expert tips on teaching K-6 math for understanding

K-6 Math in the News: Censuses, Counting People and Math

The Australian Federal Government recently conducted a survey; have you completed your form yet? Or are you waiting to see whether the Australian Bureau of Statistics website gets attacked again?

The recent national census really caught the attention of the Australian populace, mostly for all the wrong reasons. The official website couldn’t cope with the traffic to the site on “census night”, which was entirely predictable, and at the same time it was subjected to several “Denial of Service” (DOS) attacks.

But apart from that, what can we teach children about censuses? Here are a few ideas:

  • Governments use censuses to find out how and where to spend money on schools, hospitals, rail lines and highways
  • School math includes taking surveys, collecting data and analysing the results, just like in a census
  • Jesus was born in Bethlehem partly as a result of a census conducted by the Romans
  • People expect survey-takers and governments conducting censuses to protect their privacy


What do you think?

Do you have favourite activities for teaching children about statistics? Share a comment below.

Reference Articles

SUBSCRIBE on YouTube to learn more expert tips on teaching K-6 math for understanding

K-6 Math in the News: Schools Failing to Recognize Kids Who Don’t Fit In?

Are there kids in your class that you just don’t “get”? Do you teach students who you feel will never amount to much?

The video that prompted this week’s blog post came across my newsfeed in Facebook. It also appeared in YouTube: it’s an interview between Larry King and Gary Vaynerchuk.

Gary Vee, as he’s known to his followers, is a serial entrepreneur with hundreds of thousands of followers, who regularly speaks at large conferences about business, social media and entrepreneurship.

Chances are, you’re not much like Gary Vee. And nor am I.

If you’re like most teachers, you were good at school, you were good at following the rules, and you worked hard to figure out the educational system and succeeded at it. The system is designed to reward such behaviour, with academic awards, good grades and ultimately a pathway to a good job.

But that path doesn’t suit everyone, and that’s what Gary Vee is talking about. He reckons that schools are failing kids that don’t fit the “mould” that school recognizes, kids that are like round pegs in square holes, the kids “marching to the beat of another drummer”.

Famous People Who Failed at School

Lists like the one following list scare me, in a way. I think to myself “What if I’d been this person’s teacher; would I have treated him or her differently?” Or even more scary is the question “What if the next genius the world is waiting for sits in my class every day? What if I don’t recognize genius or ability and it goes undeveloped?”

  • Albert Einstein: dropped out of school at 15; didn’t speak until 4, or read until 7
  • Thomas Edison: teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything”; failed 10,000 times to create a viable incandescent lightbulb
  • Richard Branson: dyslexic, dropped out of school at 16
  • Benjamin Franklin: 15th of 20 children; left school at 10 to work with his father
  • John D. Rockefeller: dropped out of high school, went on to become history’s first recorded billionaire
  • Walt Disney: dropped out of school at 16; fired by a newspaper editor because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”
  • Charles Dickens: left school at 12, worked 10-hour days in a boot-blacking factory
  • Aretha Franklin: dropped out of school to care for her child at age 15

What can a teacher do to truly help kids who don’t seem to be fitting in, who just might be the high achiever the world is waiting for? The video includes some suggestions you may find thought-provoking or helpful.

What do you think?

How do you recognize every child in your class? Do you have a method that allows for different approaches to life within your classroom structures? Share a comment below.

Reference Articles

► More Lists of High Achievers Who Failed at School:

SUBSCRIBE on YouTube to learn more expert tips on teaching K-6 math for understanding

► Photograph credits from Flickr, used under license:

Teach Measurement Using a Rain Gauge

Standing in the Rain, Teaching: Video

Rain gauges measure rainfall by collecting a small sample and measuring how deep the water is. The trouble is, we are interested in very small units – in the metric system, rainfall is measured in millimetres/millimeters. How can you accurately measure such small amounts?

How can we use everyday examples to teach measurement?

Watch the video: I explain how a rain gauge amplifies the depth of water collected to make it easier to measure.