Access keys | Skip to primary navigation | Skip to secondary navigation | Skip to content | Skip to footer |
Problems viewing this site

These resources support teachers to embed the cross-curriculum priority ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures’ in the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics.

Learning experiences and resources are suggested as a starting point for teachers’ decision-making. There are, of course, many other opportunities to support the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures cross-curriculum priority in the curriculum.

When planning, check with your local community about resources to use — they may be able to suggest others that are more suitable — and how to implement them effectively in your classroom.

Note: Some resources are intended for teachers’ background information and may not be suitable for use with students in the classroom without significant prior support or scaffolding.

All links were correct at the time of publication.

Sample learning experienceDescriptionResource

Maths as story telling

Culture and mathematics, available on the QCAA website, unpacks Maths as Storytelling (MAST) which is a pedagogical approach that explores new ways of teaching algebra to students who are underachieving. The approach focuses on stories and explores how symbols and their meanings can communicate these stories.

Mathematics as storytelling

"Maths involves creating symbols and putting them together to represent the real world," Dr Matthews says. He realised you could help children struggling with maths by linking it to their own stories about the world.

Maths, stories and dance: an Indigenous approach to teaching

MAST uses Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of learning, doing and being, such as:

  • storytelling
  • using symbols and metaphors
  • non-verbal, kinaesthetic approaches.

Creating your own symbols: Beginning algebraic thinking with Indigenous students’ by C Matthews, A Baturo and T Cooper (2005)

Australian Aboriginal one-hand counting system

This traditional Aboriginal counting system uses a base five or “one hand” number system. Numbers were often used on message sticks to invite neighbouring clans to events. The Geckos website provides an explanation of how to use the “one hand” number system.

Specific student activities could include:

  • finding the words used for each of the numbers one, two, three, four and a handful in the local Aboriginal language
  • investigating and developing the base five number system using place and face value
  • finding the rules for the four operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of numbers in the base five systems
  • comparing and contrasting the concepts of equal and unequal sharing

- in class a great deal of time is given to the concept of equal sharing, especially in the teaching of fractions

- discuss instances in students’ own families where an object, such as food, may not be divided into equal amounts.

Geckos One-hand number system

Spatial strategies

This conference paper describes the nature and use of spatial strategies in an addition task.

Children aged 4 to 7, who are speakers of Warlpiri and Anindilyakwa language only at two remote sites in the Northern Territory used spatial strategies extensively. These languages do not include counting words. English-speaking children of the same age used spatial strategies very infrequently, instead relying on an enumeration strategy supported by counting words to do the addition task.

These findings suggest that using counting words is just one strategy for arithmetic, and also suggest that spatial models for number may be more than one-dimensional.

Using mental representations of space when words are unavailable: Studies of enumeration and arithmetic in Indigenous Australia

Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)

Make it count

The Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers (AAMT) Inc. has established a four-year project called Make it count to develop an evidence base of practices that improve Indigenous students’ learning in Mathematics and numeracy.

Make it count resources include interactive websites, videos, conference presentations and links and papers about embedding Indigenous perspectives and improving teaching and learning outcomes.


This website inspires, educates and empowers teachers of mathematics, transforming the latest research into accessible and practical teaching strategies that bring high levels of student engagement and achievement.

Sample learning experienceDescriptionResource

Indigenous weather

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM)’s Indigenous weather knowledge webpages offer information about Indigenous Australian seasonal calendars based on the local sequence of natural events.


Seasons and stars in the Torres Strait Islands shows key weather patterns and behavior of marine and terrestrial plants and animals.


The Astronomical Society of South Australia website provides information and activities about how Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples apply their knowledge of stars, constellations and the moon to tell time. select ‘Astronomy and Australian Indigenous People’.

8 ways

8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning is a framework involving narrative-driven learning, visualised learning processes, hands-on/reflective techniques, use of symbols/metaphors, land-based learning, indirect/synergistic logic, modelled/scaffolded genre mastery, and connectedness to community.

This area of the 8 ways wiki outlines lessons about shapes, symbols and patterns.

Sample learning experienceDescriptionResource

Indigenous card games

This paper explores the mathematical nature of two probability card games played by Indigenous children and their potential to foster mathematical understandings.

The Mathematics of Indigenous Card Games: Implications for Mathematics Teaching and Learning, presented at the 27th Annual Conference of the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia (2004)., under the heading ‘Research papers’, select the paper.

Back to top