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  What Works - The Work Program

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A report about the AAMT Project

Summary of intentions and activity


To explore varying teaching practices to improve levels of numeracy acquisition among Indigenous students.


The project operated at five sites — Marree Aboriginal School (SA); Alice Springs High School, Manmoyi Outstation School of the Gunbalanya School and Shepherdson College (all NT); and Kununurra District High School (WA).

Site 1: Two whole classes (approximately 50% of whom were Indigenous students) were taught using the theory and practice of Mathematics in Context. Administrative and other staff provided relief for project staff to undertake planning, detailed assessment and other project activities.

Site 2: The project teacher worked with small groups of (mostly) Year 7 and 8 students in a withdrawal program of two or three regular sessions per week. The focus was for students to develop underpinning numerical skills by encountering fundamental concepts in a range of contexts (‘multiple representations’).

Site 3: The project teacher had daily intensive numeracy sessions (15–30) with small groups of primary-aged students and released another teacher to work in a similar way with the secondary-aged students. There was an emphasis on underpinning place value knowledge through games, physical activity, repetition and computer use.

Site 4: A teacher aide worked with small groups of students in awithdrawal program of two or three regular sessions per week. Students were drawn from K–3, middle primary and secondary aged classes, with appropriate programs of activity planned by the teacher aide in collaboration with the local project teacher. Additional language support was provided for the youngest students through an AIEW working with the groups.

Site 5: In-class support of the learning of some Year 3 students by the project teacher was supplemented by occasional withdrawal of individuals or pairs requiring particular attention. Initially, a small group of Year 4 students was withdrawn from daily mathematics sessions for intensive work with the project teacher and AIEW, and the Year 3 model being successfully adopted in second semester. Teaching approaches were built from the Education Department of WA’s First Steps in Mathematics trial materials, with an emphasis on developing base ten understanding and associated number sense.

Project performance

Performance targets and results

Site 1: Number and proportion of Indigenous students who move one or more Levels in terms of the National Mathematics Statement and Profile.

Target: 80% of students move one or more Levels.
Result: 8/11 (72%).

Site 2: Number and proportion of Indigenous students in target group who satisfy providers’ expectations of basic numeracy skills in terms of the National Mathematics Profile (Number, Measurement, Working mathematically).

Target: 90% of students at Level 3.
Result: 7/8 (88%).

Site 3: Number and proportion of Indigenous students in target group who satisfy providers’ expectations in Number in terms of the National Mathematics Profile.

Target: 90% progress 1 or more Levels.
Result: 12/22 (55%).

Site 4: Number and proportion of Indigenous students in target group who move one or more Stages in the Number strand (in terms of the WA Learning Mathematics Curriculum).

Target: 80% of students progress one or more Stages.
Result: 15/18 (83%).

Site 5: Number and proportion of Indigenous students who satisfy providers’ expectations for progress to the following year, in terms of the WA Student Outcome Statements in Number.

Target: 50% Year 3 students and 80% Year 4 students achieve Level 2.
Result: 7/10 Year 3 students (70%) and 6/8 Year 4 students (75%).

Analysis of project performance

The targets adopted represent at least the common expectation of progress in a full year for mainstream students. The effective length of the project varied according to different set-up times in the different schools, but was, on average, only three terms. Hence the targets would be demanding in most educational contexts.

All schools, except Site 3, either met their targets or were within one student of doing so. In a number of cases, some of those students who did not reach the standard did make substantial progress. High levels of absenteeism were evident in all but a very few cases of students not achieving the set targets.

Factors in success

A set of factors was developed and discussed by project personnel as having had some significance. Each project officer then estimated their relevance to his/her particular project.

Higher frequency:
  • Collaboration between all elements of the school community.
  • Attention to the development of students’ understanding and use of the language of maths in English.
  • Work with small groups in a withdrawal program (with one exception).
  • Person(s) established and resourced to attend to students’ numeracy development as a special responsibility.
  • Revised teaching strategies.

Medium frequency:
  • Explicit involvement of paraprofessionals.

Lower frequency:
  • Community involvement/ownership of teaching strategies. (In one case this was deemed to be of high significance.)
  • Community-generated teaching strategies. (The same comment applies.)
  • New teaching materials/resources.
  • Focus on ensuring understanding of appropriate concepts in Aboriginal language.

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