The overview of this learning area refers to sophisticated applications of mathematical concepts in Indigenous societies, and encourages students to investigate “time, place, relationships and measurement concepts in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander contexts” (ACARA, 2015). A useful starting point is the book “Garma Maths: We’ve heard that you teach maths through kinship” (Watson-Verran, 1992), which comes from an Indigenous maths curriculum created in Arnhem Land in the 1980s. Written in English, it gives an overview of the program for non-Aboriginal educators, and stating in the introduction that

it is not only Aboriginal children who can benefit from learning about maths as something which is based in, and shaped by, human concerns. Our course of study grows from our life as a particular group of people and reflects the concerns of our community. Developing as an expression of Yolngu life, it cannot be used as such in other places, by other communities. But we expect that the ways that we have worked to develop this course of study will be useful to other communities, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. (Watson-Verran, 1992)

Teachers addressing mathematical issues with respect to Indigenous people may come across the myth that the smaller sets of number terms implies a dearth of intelligence – a concept that can be meaningfully discussed in a mathematics classroom, including reference to newspaper articles such as Cooper (2015) and Mundine (2014) which discuss different aspects of Indigenous mathematical systems. There are also a number of programs designed specifically to teach mathematical concepts to Indigenous students, such as ‘Make it Count‘ (AAMT, 2011) and ‘Talking Namba‘ (DEEWR, 2015) which both include useful teaching resources and numerous references.


Taken from Bow, C. (2016). Using authentic language resources to incorporate Indigenous knowledges across the Australian Curriculum. Learning Communities: International Journal of Learning in Social Contexts, 20, 20–39. Available from