News

03 June 2011

Over the next week, Queensland University of Technology is offering primary school teachers professional development workshops aimed at increasing engagement and success in the maths classroom for students from Indigenous and lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Professor Tom Cooper, Director of QUT's YuMi Deadly Centre in the Faculty of Education, has been working on a range of projects for teachers and students in remote and Indigenous communities since 2001, aiming to give disadvantaged students the edge in maths education.

"The Centre's aim was initially to make maths accessible to Indigenous students, and in the past few years that has widened to also include any students who are disengaged or having trouble with maths," he said.

The Teaching Indigenous Maths Education (TIME) workshops, for teachers of students from Year Four to Year Seven, received significant funding from the Department of Education and Training's Division of Indigenous Education and Training Futures.

Professor Cooper said the project was about engaging with the students, showing them the big picture, answering questions, and showing how maths is applied in their own day to day life.

"We have fantastic feedback and more and more schools wanting to be involved," he said.

The Centre's earlier experiences have shown that professional development in mathematics does not lead to sustainable change without whole school community programs.

Dr Grace Sarra, TIME project lead researcher, said the project incorporated school change and leadership.

TIME project coordinator, Edlyn Grant, said while many teachers initially showed reservations about getting students away from their desks to learn, it actually made lessons clearer and more productive.

"A big concern that many teachers have is misbehaviour, but what they find is that when students are more engaged, they are less likely to misbehave," she said.

"So for a teacher who would perhaps have been using 70 per cent of their energy on behaviour management, to suddenly be able to use that energy on teaching is fantastic."

More than 50 schools have been involved in this year's workshops.

The Department of Education and Training's assistant director-general Ian Mackie said the project aligned with its closing the gap agenda in which the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous numeracy will be significantly reduced.

"All Queensland focus schools (those schools identified as having Indigenous students with the greatest need) will have the opportunity to participate in the project and we look forward to the participation increasing as the evidence of its success grows," Mr Mackie said.

Media contact: Sharon Thompson, QUT media officer - 3138 2999 or sharon.thompson@qut.edu.au

Professor Tom Cooper