A group of Massey University mathematics education specialists have become the first New Zealand recipients of a prestigious award.
Professor Bobbie Hunter, whose doctoral thesis published 10 years ago was the driving force of the research, was awarded the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia (MERGA) Research award, along with Dr Jodie Hunter, Trevor Bills and Professor Glenda Anthony.
Dr Jodie Hunter said the award was a “fantastic recognition” for their work with the most vulnerable communities in New Zealand.
“It validates our research which highlights the ways that teachers can transform their practices to meet the needs of all students.”
The team members were commended for their leadership in research in mathematics education focused on “equitable access for diverse mathematical learners”.
Projects developed by the team included research of how learners could be supported through the communication and participation patterns in primary school classrooms.
A three-year Teaching and Learning Research Initiative project was also conducted by the team.
In collaboration with researchers from the United States, that project explored practice-based teaching methods within teacher education.
The group worked with 89 schools in New Zealand and two in Niue, in low socio-economic areas with a large Māori and Pasifika roll.
The MERGA award nomination said research with those schools had “consistently identified significant improvements in student access and participation in mathematics, as measured in school-based assessments, alignment with cultural values and identity, and a range of pro-social skills”.
Dr Bobbie Hunter’s teaching model developed as part of her PhD is based on getting children to work collaboratively in groups to question, argue and reason their way through mathematical problem solving, using culturally-based examples and contexts.
Teachers are encouraged to use culturally relevant maths problems — for example having students refer to the weight of a taro or dimensions of a tapa cloth.