Australian Journal of Education

Article Title

Young Australian Indigenous students’ engagement with numeracy: Actions that assist to bridge the gap


Many young Indigenous Australian students continue to underachieve in Western mathematics. National test results indicate that they are two years behind their peers. Success in mathematics is important to Indigenous students as it leads to employment opportunities and can assist in identifying power differences among socio-economic classes (Gustein, 2003). The focus of this paper is the preparatory year. One-on-one interviews were conducted with 48 students (average age 4 years and 11 months) at the commencement and completion of the preparatory year. Pre- and post-intervention test results of BOEHM (an oral language test), School Entry Number Assessment (SENA) and patterning ability were collected. The pre- and post-intervention test results indicated that, although Australian Indigenous students scored significantly lower on the preintervention test with regard to their understanding of number, an intervention focusing, first, on the language of mathematics and, secondly, on representations that support mathematical thinking assisted these students to begin to bridge the gaps in their learning. This paper begins to tease out classroom actions that supported their engagement with and understanding of Western mathematics.