Educational software company Matific has had its game-based learning mathematics resource for new entrant to Year 7 students translated into te reo Māori.

The resource is available in 46 countries, and has been translated into 26 languages. Te reo Māori will be its 27th language. The object of the resource is to make maths fun and engaging and to reduce children’s maths anxiety while improving their maths results.

Hemi Kelly of Ngati Maniapoto, Ngati Tahu, Ngati Whaoa is the lecturer from the University of Auckland who translated the programme.

“The Māori translation of Matific has been an informative and humbling journey. This resource will allow students in Māori medium education the opportunity to engage in a tool to develop in mathematics and prepare them for their future and a future in STEM.

“My hope is that the Matific translation will be a prototype, which will lead to the Māori translation of other interactive resources that can be used in our kura. As a lecturer of the reo and an active member in te reo Māori revitalisation, I see this as a gateway to continue the revitalisation of the language and culture in the education system,” he says.

The marriage of STEM education and te reo is essential to New Zealand’s future prosperity, says Matific New Zealand manager Charlene Macrae.

“We want to provide students with the tools they need to instil a love for maths and acknowledge the mana of Māori culture and values from a young age.

“The translation of the programme to te reo is more than just to revitalise the Māori language. We want to take responsible steps towards providing engaging mathematical content for the te reo Māori learning community.”

Petra du Fresne is a teacher at Parkvale Kindergarten a member of Heretaunga Kindergartens in Hastings. She says she makes it her own personal goal to use te reo Māori as much as possible.

“It’s that normalisation of the language so if you use it interchangeably it’s not a big deal, it’s what’s normal – it’s how we do things.”

“It’s not only the reo, it’s the tikanga as well. I believe that it’s my job to provide that relationship with the treaty, and uphold that living biculturalism.

“At this pre-school age, you don’t have to translate every word when speaking in te reo. Because they are still mastering their first language, you can use lots of expressions and gestures to convey the meaning. They’re in the prefect position to pick up te reo and you don’t have to explain everything as much. Mihiwae Karaitiana du Fresne [Petra’s four-year-old daughter who goes to Parkvale Kindergarten] is a great little hothouse – she just soaks it all up and starts to use it and understands what it means.”

Unlike the primary and secondary sectors, early childhood has an obligation to uphold a bicultural curriculum as part of Te Whāriki (early childhood curriculum). There’s a rueful smile in Petra’s voice when she is asked if she thinks there needs to be more te reo Māori in the education system.

“We [the staff] were just discussing that very thing. There needs to be more emphasis on te reo Māori and tikanga Māori in our teacher training. Even though early childhood has a commitment to te reo, currently it is a minimal amount.”

The power of the kids of tomorrow learning te reo and tikanga now can be palpable, she says.

“When you see kids who mayn’t have always achieved in the English medium, really step up when they’re doing kapa haka …there’s a part of Te Ao Māori / the Māori world, that doesn’t fit into the mainstream and when those students step up and show real leadership qualities, it’s great.”

Beyond honouring our national language, Petra says the benefits for children learning a second language are priceless.

“It widens their world view, makes them better understand their history and does great things for the development of their mind.”

Petra says she loves it when the learning of the language “filters out”.

“You have children teaching their parents things too. We have whānau coming back and saying we are using this word now or singing this song. It’s nice knowing it’s going out past the kindergarten gates.”

Māori Language week is every week for us, says Tumuaki of Te Wharekura o Te Kaokaoroa o Patetere, Keith Silveira.

Based in Putaruru, the character school is total immersion Māori and teaches Years 1 to 13.

Te reo Māori is the way forward for students in terms of a commitment to learning, as well as in terms of employment, says Keith.

“We believe [te reo] Māori is the future. We have kids who stay at school years longer than they would have. It engages and enhances a child’s learning. Learning a language helps their mind and that left and right brain; kinaesthetic learning stuff happens when you learn a language. Te reo Māori is the vehicle to do that.

“And at the moment in New Zealand, te reo is a guaranteed job. Not many people with te reo are without a job. Health services, social services teachers… all need people who speak the language.”

As he and his students manage their programme of performing and promoting te reo to other schools and organisations throughout Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori, Keith says learning te reo also enhances the students’ self-esteem.

“It’s identifying them with themselves, and with who they are.”

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