Culturally responsive pedagogies

Non-Western Mathematics

In Australian schools we typically focus on the Western concept of mathematics. There are however other examples of mathematical systems developed by other cultures.

The term ethnomathematics is often used to describe the mathematical practices of identifiable cultural groups.

Incorporating ethnomathematics into the school curriculum can provide a useful context to connect to cultures, use processes such as visualising mathematical problems, spatial mathematics and reasoning. Strategy games also provide a context to incorporate other cultures.

Teachers can embed culturally responsive approaches in mathematics, either through pedagogy or through specific strategies using cultural content. A range of resources, pedagogies and frameworks are provided.

Non-Western mathematics


5 ancient maths games

Mathematics games have been played and enjoyed for thousands of years by civilisations all across the world.

Games from Around the World

Strategy games from across the world can be used to introduce the concept that all cultures have their own form of mathematical system.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ histories and cultures

In mathematics, culturally responsive approaches can either be enacted by teachers through the use of pedagogies or content or a combination of both CRP and content.

Pedagogies are the strategies used to facilitate learning. Examples of culturally responsive pedagogies are the 8 Ways maths model and the Goompi model. Whole-school communities should collaborate with their local communities to localise these pedagogical approaches, tailoring them to suit their discrete community. Culturally responsive content can also be initiated through the local community. When respectful, two-way partnerships are utilised to inform mathematics teaching and learning, First Nations students are able to see their histories, cultures and identities reflected.

These resources also support teachers to embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ Histories and Cultures in the teaching and learning of mathematics, to incorporate the Australian Curriculum's cross-curriculum priority.

Embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ histories and cultures


8 Ways  

This Indigenous pedagogy framework is expressed as eight interconnected pedagogies 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. 

When focusing on mathematics lessons, using the 8 Ways framework suggests that rather than trying to bring out the culture in maths, we need to bring out the maths in culture. Refer to the relevant ‘Best practice’ maths lessons for example Basic Maths Remedial.

RAMR framework 

The RAMR cycle is at the heart of YuMi Deadly Mathematics resources. It advocates the use of four components as a cycle for planning and teaching mathematics lessons. It proposes a cycle which works from reality and local culture, which then abstracts mathematics ideas from everyday instances to mathematical forms through an active pedagogy, which then consolidates the new ideas through practice and connections. Finally these ideas are reflected back through a focus on on applications, problem-solving, flexibility, reversing and generalising.

Mathematics as Storytelling 

Maths as Storytelling (MAST) is a pedagogical approach that can be used to explore new ways of teaching algebra to students. The approach focuses on stories, and explores how symbols and their meanings can communicate these stories. 

Changing our mindsets 

In this video, Dr Chris Matthews suggests that changing our mindsets in how we see mathematics will enable us to respond to children’s natural curiosity. Viewing mathematics through a cultural and environmental lens can support teachers in developing mathematics tasks which are culturally rich and engaging for all students.

MAST lesson ideas

These lesson ideas use the Maths as Storytelling (MAST) approach. It aims to work from the storytelling world of the Indigenous student through to the formal world of algebra by using experiences with the creation of symbols that have personal meaning. The storytelling starts with simple arithmetic but moves quickly to algebraic thinking. It enables Indigenous students to bring their everyday world of symbols into mathematics. 

Maths as Dance

The Maths as Dance (Matthews, 2009) experience shared by Price (2015) was developed as an extension of the Maths as Storytelling experience by Professor Chris Matthews and an Indigenous Education Worker. These integrated mathematics experiences revealed that by providing outdoor opportunities through connections with other learning areas, students are more likely to participate and discover mathematics can be enjoyable (Price, 2015).