Blogging from The Tenth Southern Hemisphere Conference on the Teaching and Learning of Undergraduate Mathematics and Statistics

Dr Jyoti Jhagroo from AUT.

This is a personal reflective narrative as a student and teacher in the school/higher education contexts.

It is a hermeneutic phenomenological study with 10 immigrant students

  • Considerations of cultural constructs: Languages, Beliefs and Experiences (though of course there are much more).
  • Students lived experiences in their mathematics classrooms with considerations for teacher education.
  • Explore some ideas of multiplications from different cultures and consider their implications for teaching and learning in a multicultural context. Take some ideas to take forward for teacher education

As a student with a personal narrative, Jyoti had been indoctrinated into the ideas of what mathematics education were about. It should be:

  • Culture-free
  • Factual
  • Based on theorems
  • Present, practice, perfect

As a teacher: a shift from a monocultural context to a multiculural context:

  • Some students spoke a different language at home, potentially held different beliefs and different experiences of mathematics
  • However, it seemed that the mathematics education practices and attitudes are often projected as culturally neutral ideologies.
  • Though they knew about the influence of culture on teaching and learning, mathematics practices and attitudes were presented as culturally neutral ideologies.
  • Do we want to churn out batches of students with a culturally neutral ideology? What is the ideology? What should be done about it? What is the experience of the students?

Took ten participants from China, The Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Fiji, India, South Africa and Thailand with between 7 and 24 months in New Zealand, all in year 9 or 10.

Findings: All classroom participants (students or teacher) bring our own history, social constructs, knowledge and own experiences and ideas of what mathematics education is all about. The way the teacher projects their ideology on what mathematics is affects the students a lot.

Language of thought: If I learnt the maths in Nigeria, I think about it in Igbo, if I learn the maths in New Zealand then I think about it in English.

Is this relevant to our context of mathematics education at tertiary level?

Different Mathematics understandings: “The maths we did in Nigeria is different from the one here..”

“I know how to add them, I didn’t know I had to add them”

Implications for teacher education…

  • Is the learning accessible to the students?
  • How often is this seen as students ‘lacking mathematical knowledge’?

What happens when the learning is unfamiliar (Davidson and Kramer: Integrating with integrity–curriculum, instruction and culture in the mathematics classroom; Igoa, 1995)

A contextual task: Draw a probability tree of all possible gender outcomes of children if there were three children in a family.

The student drew a tree, with houses, a duck and children: Statistically flawed however, could this be suggestive of a cultural context?

How do students cope?

  • Electronic dictionaries? Plug in “locus of points” – dictionary gave a locust…
  • Code switching or code mixing (between languages) – difficult if there’s a single student with a particular mother tongue.
  • Peer group learning
    • May be helpful in the school environment
    • Tertiary level – students are hesitant to work in groups
    • Creating a sense of powerlessness, intimidation and isolation

Beliefs and mathematics education: Invisibility may lead to students seeing themselves as ‘outside this [mathematics] knowledge or may view themselves in an environment where they don’t belong’

What is the next number in the sequence:


42.1,  42.2, 42.3, 42.3, 42.4, 42.4, 42.5,…?

If we think of cricket then the answer may be 43.

Different ways of knowing

A final thought:

Diversity is not a problem to be fixed, but it is something to be celebrated as a fundamental potentiality of the learning environment, by inviting the students to bring in their ideas into the context.

How clear is this post?