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Online Webinars



The ATSIMA inaugural online conference series was a great success and was not to replace the postponed ATSIMA 2020 conference. Instead, it offered a special opportunity for speakers and participants to share their journey towards the future conference experience.


SESSIONS 2020/2021

At the end of each webinar, ATSIMA sent out a survey to all delegates.
The following are a selection of testimonials from the surveys:



Answer: Thanks so much for this highly relevant question. I do think it is important that students see their own world reflected in the maths problems they study, in order to express their pride in their community’s knowledge and history and be empowered to ‘take ownership’ of maths and make it part of their story.

The N. Qld students certainly enjoy the rugby league on Mars activity, for example! (I guess in NT communities it might be preferable to play AFL on Mars!) Your question and this answer also highlight the importance of “two-way education” in remote communities, which was pioneered by Mandawuy Yunupingu and is very much central to the philosophy of ATSIMA.

Answer: Thanks so much for your thoughtful question. It highlights the importance of “two-way education” in remote communities, which was pioneered by Mandawuy Yunupingu and is very much central to the philosophy of ATSIMA.

Indeed, during my ‘bridges’ activity with the students of the Gulf country I do bring in the road and rail bridges across the Norman river, which are familiar and important as many of their families were involved in their planning and building and are employed in ongoing maintenance as skilled workers.

Regarding city bridges, these also are important in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories and traditions, and the bridges maths activity is an opportunity to yarn about this with students. For example, Aboriginal crews were recruited and employed specifically on building the Sydney harbour bridge way back in 1930; many of these people subsequently settled in Redfern, an inner suburb of Sydney. And to this day, the great Australian city bridges remain important foci for Aboriginal activism. I show the students a photo that I took during the very first Walk for Reconciliation across the Sydney harbour bridge in 2000 – a momentous and historic occasion!

The bridges activity has been one of the most popular with the students! They learn about gravity, friction and tension cooperatively and by using their own hands, and it’s wonderful to see how proud and happy they are to have achieved in building a bridge that works!

Answer: Thanks for this excellent and relevant question! For the inaugural State of Origin game played on Mars I would definitely go for the Maroons. Because, you see, on Mars with g = 1/3 (approx) a runner would travel 3 times as far as on Earth, thus a player off the ground for such a relatively extended time is pretty useless – can’t change direction and vulnerable to mid-air collisions. Since I have workshopped this scenario so far only with Qld Aboriginal students, they know what to do – make more fake runs so as to get NSW players to run. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Answer: I have attached a pdf of the presentation I give at the schools before we go outside and play a ‘Martian’ sport. Of course it does not mean a lot without me talking to it and interacting with the kids and teachers, but I hope you will find it a little bit helpful. The teachers had prepared and handed out worksheets, but I’m afraid I don’t have those.

Schools Presentation Mars HERE


Answer: I love that this question brings focus back to the practical workings of teaching mathematics in classrooms; the real work of education. While my thesis is structured to focus on the policy and the fundamental power struggles at play within development of policy rhetoric, but also formal curriculum – there does need to be that tangible link between what is found through the research, and what this means for practice.

I think as a first step, and based on some of the teachings I have heard Prof. Matthews speak about and others, having the awareness that there do exist robust mathematical understandings and knowledge systems that belong to Indigenous peoples – not just here in Australia but globally, is a foundation that we can build from. It all comes back to the questions of, what purpose does the mathematics serve? What does it enable us to do? Historically and in the now; how is this understanding/system useful, and what kind of world view does it reflect?

Even through the teaching of the history of our formal mathematics curriculum and ‘dominant’ understandings (I.e. the development of the hindu-arabic counting system we use and why/how that came about etc)., by shifting some of the focus to ‘how’ and ‘why’ these systems were developed, we can help students to understand for themselves that the discipline we know as ‘mathematics’ did not just materialize because it is ‘truth’ (although some may argue differently); it came about because it served a society a purpose and a function that was useful at that time, and continues to be so. I guess this is what is meant by the expression I’ve heard, which goes something along the lines of “finding the humanity in mathematics” (Hursh).

This historical perspective can be one way of linking into other knowledge systems, such as those of Indigenous Australians, whose mathematics may appear quite dissimilar to what we think of as ‘formal’ mathematics as they served entirely different purposes for societies that were based on very different world views.

Take for example the development of the number system. To my knowledge in some Aboriginal languages number names were used for numbers up to four, and then a term for ‘many’ would refer to quantities greater than four. You could quite easily find the relevant language resources for the naming words for numbers. In our vicinity of Newcastle, Awabakal, the Miromaa language centre founded by Daryn Mckenney (https://www.miromaa.org.au/) have a host of resources for integrating language into teaching practice and I’ve found the organization extremely approachable and helpful in the past. I think the biggest thing to be wary of however when integrating language in this way, is that in past times, Indigenous counting and number systems have been perceived as inferior by non-Indigenous onlookers, who lacked understanding of Indigenous world views and systems and were not positioned to make judgement around their usefulness. To some, this was reason enough to consider that Indigenous peoples therefore did not possess sophisticated mathematical processes or thought – and therefore what could we learn from such communities and their ways of being about maths?

In such a case, what needs to be considered more broadly is the reason and function of numbers and quantifying – functions which are largely linked to the development of a universal trading system and in our current times, economic dominance. In societies such as pre-colonised, traditional Indigenous community, what purpose would there have been for exactness in calculating and quantifying ‘amounts’, when the very notion of ‘possession’, and indeed ownership of resources and land, was not such a priority. Aboriginal communities lived in synchronicity and harmony with the land, ‘on country’, and so the need to quantify, dissect, calculate, and account for was not such a ‘thing’ as it was in the western world post agricultural revolution; whose whole societal and economic structure was built upon the basis of land ownership and possession.

What we can begin to do then, is to introduce to students some of the understandings that Indigenous peoples have used, and continue to use, which reflect their world views and ways of being – both in the past, and currently. Professor Matthews explains, with endorsement from Aboriginal elders of the Yolgnu peoples, how the concept of ‘Moiety’ works and how it serves Aboriginal communities across various regions of the country – a unifying system that seems to be ‘in common’ across nations. For a more detailed and accurate explanation of what Moiety, and other concepts such as Gurrutu, means, refer to this wonderful article written by Chris, which was published in Teacher magazine

(https://www.teachermagazine.com/au_en/articles/indigenous-perspectives-in-maths-understanding-gurruu ). I have shown this article to fourth year primary teaching university students and they were completely blown away. Imagine the kind of impact this type of awareness could have on our primary and high school students, simply ‘knowing’ that such systems exist, and serve a very important function in the maintenance and continuance of all life forms on country. Lessons we could all learn from in this state of global climate emergency I am sure.

So, in brief (and I apologize for the extended response), I think the first step is having ALL Australian students realise a few things, like:

  1. Mathematics as we know it came about to serve human interests and needs (historically); and that these needs and interests were largely based on Western world views and patterns of interaction with the environment. Mathematics always has served a function. It has a ‘humanness’.
  2. This ‘function’ of mathematics looks different in different societies, based on very different world views and ways of being. Therefore, the mathematics inherent within communities does not all look the ‘same’ – I.e. we cannot simply look for examples of what we perceive as ‘formal’ mathematics within different societies and their systems of knowing, as they just don’t exist in the same way.
  3. We can find examples of the strengths of Indigenous knowledge and understandings, such as the example I referred to around the concept of ‘Moiety’, and more importantly, the function these knowledges served, and continue to serve, Indigenous communities. We need to consider, and help our students consider, the kinds of world views and ways of being and doing on country, that these systems reflect.
  4. Simply teaching from the perspective that there is not just one way of knowing mathematics. Begin to broaden our perspectives and recognize that the perceived limits around what we consider to be legitimate, or valid mathematics are merely perceptions. There is always the possibility to expand upon our definitions.

I hope this helps; much of this I am sure you have already considered and or done before. Some of it is also up for considerable debate – I don’t have all the answers but this is how I have made sense of things thus far.

I also wouldn’t want to make any recommendations further to this without input from Indigenous community. The AECG and their extensive workshops and PL programs are also a first port of call – although I have found that finding ‘content’ on Indigenous mathematics locally is harder to find, where resources and info for other KLA’s is generally better covered.

The N. Qld students certainly enjoy the rugby league on Mars activity, for example! (I guess in NT communities it might be preferable to play AFL on Mars!) Your question and this answer also highlight the importance of “two-way education” in remote communities, which was pioneered by Mandawuy Yunupingu and is very much central to the philosophy of ATSIMA.

Answer: To answer your question, no I had not come across De Morgan’s work previously in this space – it does sound very relevant however to the question around how certain knowledges come to be more ‘privileged’ than others within what ‘counts’ as formal, and indeed essential mathematics.

I did allude to this aspect of the topic within my presentation; that the perceived legitimacy of certain knowledge’s over and above others is not by a chance occurrence, especially if we consider the rise of Scientific enquiry post-enlightenment; the increasing emphasis on objectifiable, verifiable ‘truth’, and the parameters around this kind of knowledge production (i.e. who can lay claim to ‘truth’ within the context of having to ‘prove’ everything scientifically? Who is thereby left out of the conversation? Whose knowledge claims can be perceived as legitimate, or non-legitimate, based on the premise of scientific ‘reason’ and rationality?).

My original avenue into this line of thinking was through the work of Michel Foucault – ‘The order of things’ (1970), and ‘The archaeology of knowledge’ (also 1970) – and at one point I wanted to focus my whole thesis on grappling with this concept within the Australian context of Indigenous epistemology and knowledges, and the imposed, if not mandated, Eurocentric paradigms that we have yet failed to challenge, which are hinged on the assumption of ‘terra nullius’. Another author who has seriously questioned the underpinnings of mathematics as we know it as a discipline today is Valerie Walkerdine. From the sound of De Morgan’s work, it would seem that they probably share a focus in unveiling the ‘whiteness’ behind what we now think of as the foundations of western knowledge constructs.

For the purpose of this work and this thesis, I will not be going more deeply into this topic as I simply don’t have the scope to do so – my focus has had to become much more narrowed on the question of ‘equity’ for Indigenous learners within the discipline, and how this is currently being framed. However, the backdrop to that, and the context is that we must be aware of some of those power dynamics at play around the construction, verification, and legitimacy of certain knowledge claims. This work you have suggested may help me reconcile that within one of my chapters or publications – so thank you! I will have a look for this work and see how it contributes to the conversation.

Webinar Presenter Bios & Abstracts


…most teachers plan their lessons as if they’re going to go perfectly and we suddenly find that no lesson plan survives the first contact with real children.’ (Dylan Wiliam, Teacher Magazine Podcast, March 2019) When and how do you check in with students to know whether to rewind, regroup, move on or pause? We’ll explore five ways to include checkpoints and build responsiveness into your lesson plans to maximise student learning in your mathematics classroom.


Deb Carmichael has taught mathematics for over 25 years across all secondary year levels and in a variety of contexts. She has held Head of Department roles and Senior Executive roles. Deb is now a Senior Advisor at Independent Schools Victoria, working in The Development Centre. This allows her to use her experience, ideas, understanding of current research and passion for mathematics teaching and learning to engage and work with fellow educators.

TITLE The Art of String Theory

The Art Of String Theory brings our dreaming and mathematics together with the art of String Figures and ancient Sacred Geometry. The art of string figures, known as “Kamut” in the Torres Straight Islands or “Cats Cradle” in western society involves a looped piece of string woven between the fingers and other body parts to create an ancient shape library, with knowledges of food collection, life cycles, astronomy, maps, transport, weapons, fire making, healing and much more.

This looped piece of string with two or more sticks, transforms into and ancient geometrical compass, creating a simple circle or more complicated geometries such as the Flower Of Life, Metatrons Cube (a 2D code of the 5 Platonic solids), and the Tube Torus just to name a few. These geometries are best drawn on the beach at low tide and are naturally appear when making ancient string figures.

The Fruit of Life Geometry made with 13 circles is one of the key shape codes connecting us to our Golden Rainbow Dreaming and the 7 Sisters Star constellation.


Gabrielle Quakawoot is a Bialai woman through her mother’s linage, along with Irish, Chinese and Vana Tu heritages. Her father’s people are full Solomon Islander. Gabrielle has been a string finger artist all her life and is the founder of The Art of String Theory. Gabrielle has a Post Graduate Certificate in Natural, Cultural and Environmental Heritage Interpretation from the Institute of Koorie Education. She has also studied Indigenous Environment and Caring for Country II and III in the Mackay area. Gabrielle now lives her dreaming through her business the Art of String Theory.

TITLE Realising ‘best practice’ in (M/m)athematics education

The M/m distinction was made by Bishop in 1991 to emphasise the cultured nature of mathematics. It was not made to privilege one mathematics over any other but to acknowledge that there are different ways of knowing and understanding the world. This raises the question of what (M/m)athematics should be taught in what ways in particular educational settings. However, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that where first language and cultural knowledge are valued and employed in the pursuit of Mathematics, Indigenous students are more likely to succeed. We also know that learning Mathematics is most effective where it builds sensibly on what is already known. This presentation will make a case for focussing on a small number of big ideas in Mathematics that are known to make a difference to all students learning of Mathematics.


Dianne Siemon is an Emeritus Professor of Mathematics Education at RMIT University. Di has been a teacher, teacher educator and researcher for over 40 years and remains actively involved in the professional development of teachers of mathematics. Her primary interest is in the provision of evidenced-based formative assessment materials that can be used to identify and respond to where learners are in relation to the key ideas that make a difference so that all learners have the opportunity to participate and succeed in school mathematics.

Di has been associated with mathematics education in the Northern Territory for well over 20 years. First as a member of the Mathematics Teaching, Learning and Assessment Project (MaTLAP, 1993-1994) then as the researcher supporting the Sustaining Indigenous Students’ Achievement in Numeracy Project (SISAN, 2003-2004). From 2006 to 2009 Di was the Director of the Building Community Capital to Support Sustainable Numeracy Education in Remote Locations Linkage Project, which together with John Bradbury and the NT Department of Education and Training resulted in the Talking Namba resources. Di is passionately committed to the use of first language in the teaching and learning of mathematics in the early years. She has supervised two PhDs in this area and is currently supervising John Bradbury’s PhD on the use of first language and metaphor to support the teaching and learning of school mathematics,

Di has directed a number of other large-scale research projects including Reframing Mathematical Futures (2013-2018), Scaffolding Numeracy in the Middle Years (2003-2006), Researching Numeracy Teaching Approaches in Primary Schools (2001-2003), and the Middle Years Numeracy Research (1999-2001). Di is a life member of the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers and the Mathematical Association of Victoria.

TITLE Two way dialogue on akatyerr (desert raisin) in a female Indigenous middle years’ class: continuing towards cultural inclusivity in mathematics curriculum and pedagogic practice.

This study investigated real world contexts. It focused on sustainable local harvest of wild Akatyerr (desert raisin) to explore the strand of measurement. It has done this to address the problem of persistent underachievement for female middle years’ students in a very remote Indigenous High School. The study has examined how female Indigenous students use harvesting practices combined with reflexive thinking about measurement. Informed by Indigenist research frameworks, it has privileged Indigenous voice through dialogue with and critical feedback from Eastern Anmatyerr and Alyawarr speakers in Utopia; and, evaluated the ways the ‘two way dialogue’ has improved measurement learning. The study has been emergent and adopted narrative inquiry and yarning circle approaches. Narrative inquiry has been used to investigate culturally appropriate ways to relate Indigenous knowledge concepts of Akatyerr with respect to people, country and creation time to measurement attributes. Yarning circle approach has explored the existing pedagogical approaches used to teach measurement and to understand the impact of these when contextualised to culturally inclusive curriculum. Indigenous voices of twelve female middle years’ students, three assistant teachers and six community members were privileged to inform how local cultural knowledge interests relating to Akatyerr could be contextualised to measurement learning. Broad themes based on the transcribed data were generated using NVivo 12 software. The results of this study have provided the reader a place to imagine ways to contextualise curriculum and pedagogical practice for female middle years’ students with respect to privileging Indigenous voice and learning measurement in their own personal and social context.


Nicole has been involved in remote education delivery in Eastern Anmatyerr and Alyawarr speaking communities since 2014. In her current role as a teacher as researcher she has come to appreciate the unique position she is in. She has benefitted from many opportunities for Indigenous Cultural and Ecological Knowledge exchange through community led teaching and learning experiences. Working together in a classroom and on country visits with assistant teacher, Marcia Turner, she has been continually inspired to find innovative ways to remove barriers to student learning. Together Nicole and Marcia have delivered unique ‘both ways’ education experiences in mathematics.

TITLE Defining Equity in Mathematics for Indigenous Learners

For decades, Indigenous education policy discourses have been geared toward the overarching objective of ‘Closing the Gap’ on disparity in educational outcomes in Australia. Irrespective of the deemed levels of success of previous policy and subsequent curricula development, this article will systematically investigate the thrust of educational policy discourses associated with the ‘issue’ of Indigenous student attainment of outcomes within the discipline of mathematics. Drawing from social deconstructionist approaches to policy analysis, the discursive operation of the meaning of ‘equity’ that such discourses are premised on will be called into question, with implications for the valuing and positioning of Indigenous epistemology considered heavily. This contribution will build upon existing theory on the relationship between education and equity, specifically with respect to mathematics, and critically intercept the ways in which the issue of equity for Indigenous learners within mathematics education in Australia is currently represented in key policy documents.


Amber is a non-Indigenous woman of Anglo-celtic decent, whose ancestry immigrated to Australia from the British colonies, Germany, and Spain. Amber’s maternal grandfathers were Welsh Miners, who resided in the regions of the Hunter, predominantly the mining town of Wallsend, for much of the earliest part of last century. Her family ties to this area are still strong, and respect must be paid to the Awabakal peoples of the land who resided and cared for country in the days prior to European invasion.

Amber is a current PhD student at the University of Newcastle’s School of Education, whose work is focused on mathematics curriculum and policy for Indigenous students in Australia. Her supervision team consists of Dr Maura Sellars and Professor James Ladwig from the University of Newcastle’s School of Education, and Professor Chris Matthews from the University of Technology, Sydney. Amber currently manages part-time work at the University of Newcastle within the school of Education, together with her PhD studies and life as a mother of three. Fulfilling various Casual academic, Research assistant, and Project Officer roles across the schools of Education, and Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Amber’s development of competence in various pragmatic and theoretical aspects of research has given her unique insight into the fields of Mathematics and Indigenous education research.

TITLE Maths on Country

Deep in the heart of the northwest Queensland gulf savannah country, in a shed by a water tank at the back of the railway yard, there was a school. How did a school come to be part of the railways? Well, that is mostly a colonial story, but during the later years of government-enforced racial segregation, from the 1930s to the 1960s, the school educated Aboriginal children. Despite official indifference, habitually drunken white teachers, and the mile-and-a-half distance from the reserve, where peoples from four language groups were compelled to live, the school persisted because Aboriginal parents and community valued – and have always valued – formal education for their children. That this is especially the case with maths and science has in recent years been recognised, with establishment of the hugely popular regional STEM camps for Indigenous middle-school students, and STEM summer schools for Year 11 run by universities. In this talk I shall describe some of the associated maths outreach and enrichment activities I am involved in. I shall also touch on some new research to elucidate a mathematical transform practised by Australian First Peoples for hundreds if not thousands of years. We are led to a more culturally inclusive view of mathematics as a discipline.


Associate Professor Rowena Ball is an applied mathematician and physical scientist at the Australian National University. Her grandmother’s people were Indigenous from central western Queensland. She obtained her BSc with first class honours and the University Medal in 1993 and her PhD in 1997. She has held several prestigious national and international research fellowships. Working with international collaborators, she uses mathematics to model problems in physics, chemistry, biology and engineering. The results of her research are published as articles in international scientific journals. She has a particular interest in researching Indigenous sciences.