Shells and other vessels

Shells and other vessels were used and modified using processes of design, technology and engineering. They were used in food and water gathering and were/are often decorated with art to share stories. The contents of shells were used as a source of food and evidence can be found in the shell middens located around the country. Shells and other vessels can be used in the measurement strand of mathematics as well as in all areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

View these custodians who share their Indigenous Knowledges (IK) about connections to Shells and other vessels. When considering the Goompi model, the IK contexts presented in the video represent the Reality part of the four-part model.

The video of IK in action enables educators to listen, view and reflect on holistic opportunities for teaching and learning in the context of cultures. It provides relevance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, allowing them real opportunities to see the connections between mathematics and their cultures. This empowers students to have a strong sense of pride and view mathematics through their own cultural lens.

These IK contexts serve as examples for educators to work within the Third Cultural Space with their own local communities and contextualise this knowledge from their perspectives.


View the accompanying Shells and other vessels poster that demonstrates mathematical experiences that can be customised to suit local contexts.

Use these ideas as a starting point to customise content for your local context.

© 2023 Commonwealth of Australia. These resources may be used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. These resources were created by Stronger Smarter Institute and Indigenous knowledge-holders.