Chapter eight of our textbook (Siemon, Beswick, Brady, Clark, Faragher, Warren, 2011, pp142-165) talks about diversity. What it is, and what it means for teaching.
One consideration for a definition of diversity is that we all learn differently – this includes cultural, gender, academic, physical and mental backgrounds and current needs. The way people respond to learning demonstrates the diversity of their needs. Additionally; the way teachers teach can also determine the diversity of their students!
The authors list a number of researchers who have determined that all students can learn mathematics with ‘good teaching and the right support’ (p144).
Teachers can’t plan to individualise learning opportunities for EACH child. As I have stated previously: strategies implemented to help diverse learners (including Aboriginal students) can also benefit other learners. Good teaching involves the provision of different ways of achieving the same outcomes. This chapter suggests ways to allow all students to participate in mathematical tasks, experiences and conversations:
* Working with children – enabling them to get past their current point, without providing the answers. Allow students to try different ways to solve problems. – using maths which has meaning to them.
* Broad rich curriculum – work with the curriculum, and diversify the learning tasks, outcomes to best suit the child. Don’t hold them back because ‘they aren’t there yet’!
* Being in the conversation – mathematic conversations help to build understanding, through opportunities to listen to other understandings, and assistance from peers.
* Streaming (ability level grouping) is not effective – may involve lower content levels, impact self-esteem, thereby preventing students from moving up.
* Affective aspects of maths – Emotional contribution – non-passive learning. Students must be given opportunities to create maths, and developing strategies for learning and thinking mathematically.
Teachers must also consider and overcome some stereotypical or unintentional bias against particular students, and must have high expectations for student achievement.
Australian Aboriginal Students:
Also highlighted in a previous post, mathematics understanding is not universal. Additionally, language is a big part of mathematics, so EAL/D students may struggle with both language and mathematical concepts. Apart from being a second language, English has many terms which have different meanings in field specific contexts. Like Mundine (2014), Siemon et al. (2011, p155) recognise that ‘Western Mathematics’ offers opportunities for Aboriginal students to participate in the modern world, but is not required for them for traditional living. Rather than suggesting the inclusion of cultural learning, they suggest providing opportunities for students to move, work together, and extend their knowledge so that they can retrieve the knowledge for learning in different social and mathematical contexts.
Like other social cultural groups, gender bias has also impacted on the mathematical learning of girls. Some new Ethnomathematics definitions include Gender as a social group; hence, I have included it here.
Small group, collaborative work has also been credited with enabling a more equitable mathematics classroom. I note that this was also beneficial to Aboriginal learners, thereby supporting the notion that what helps specific learners also assists other mainstream learners… Previous recognition (in the 1980’s) of the differences in girls’ and boys’ mathematical achievements were based on ‘deficit’ or ‘assimilation’ models (Forgasz, Leder and Vale as cited in Siemon et al., 2011). Newer models recognise the importance of relationships, and individual students’ needs, rather than gender specific focusses. Applying mathematics to social contexts, but not making assumptions about knowledge or mathematical interests held by that social group (Vale and Bartholomew as cited in Siemon et al., 157), and by providing gender neutral contexts.
As with Mundine’s 2014 article, parents of special needs children want their children to learn mathematics. they feel it is not the responsibility of teachers to teach life skills, or cultural skills.
Again, the overall understanding I have taken from this section is that good teaching, in all lessons, benefits all students! We should not make assumptions about our students, based on their social context (gender, race, background or home lives), and we should plan for and have high expectations for achievement by all students.
Mundine, N. W. (2014). Teaching children Aboriginal kinship in maths does not add up. The Australian, (5 May, 2014). http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/teaching-children-aboriginal-kinship-in-maths-does-not-add-up/story-e6frg6zo-1226906653349
Siemon, D., Beswick, K., Brady, K., Clark, J., Faragher, R., & Warren, E. (2011). Teaching Mathematics: Foundations to middle years (E. Cochrange Ed. 2012 ed.). South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia: OXFORD University Press: Australia and New Zealand.