Culturally responsive pedagogies

Geometric designs in Islamic art are often built on combinations of repeated shapes, which may be combined to form complex patterns, including a wide variety of tessellations.


Each student brings to the classroom a unique background as an individual learner. Celebrating the cultural diversity of all class members can help students feel included, welcomed, safe and supported.

Culturally responsive pedagogy incorporates learners’ cultural backgrounds and histories into classroom practice. This approach to teaching and learning uses ‘the cultural characteristics, experiences, and perspectives of ethnically diverse students as conduits for teaching them more effectively’ (Gay, 2002, p. 106).

Teachers can embed culturally responsive approaches in mathematics pedagogy by using relevant teaching strategies and customising experiences based around culturally relevant content. Areas and activities to connect mathematics and culture could include the following.

  • Explore counting systems from a range of cultures and different ways of representing these groupings to form and partition numbers.
  • Present instructive games for learning used by different cultures.
  • Use First Nations Australians' material, culture, cultural stories or dance to recognise and create pattern sequences.
  • Explore durations of time represented in First Nations Australians’ seasonal calendars and calendars of other cultures.
  • Identify and locate on a calendar specific days or dates that have cultural significance.
  • Compare currencies of different countries and discuss trading and bartering as forms of economy, for example, First Nations Australians’ trading among nations.
  • Explore explanations of the passing of time through cultural accounts about cyclic phenomena involving the sun, moon and stars.
  • Conduct statistical investigations using secondary data of cultural importance.
  • Explore traditional weaving designs practised by First Nations Australians and other cultures.
  • Customise maths experiences that localise content, for example, where First Nations Australians use ochre to make paint as part of body decorations. Model situations involving ratio, incorporating cultural knowledge of ratios of ingredients to make ochre-based paint.

Mathematics is not an exclusive western construct. Therefore, it is important that teachers acknowledge and demonstrate the mathematics to be found in all cultures. In the Australian Curriculum, links to First Nations Australians’ culture and histories and those from Asia are of particular relevance.

Pedagogies relevant to First Nations Australians' histories and culture

The Goompi model and the 8 Ways maths model are two sets of strategies that draw on diverse pedagogies used to facilitate learning. Schools should collaborate with local communities to identify any other local pedagogical approaches and initiate localised culturally responsive content, tailoring them to suit their particular community. When respectful, two-way partnerships inform mathematics teaching and learning, as well as learning about culturally responsive content First Nations students are able to see their histories, cultures and identities reflected.

The teacher:

  • is aware of the cultural diversity in the classroom and recognises this cultural difference as a strength
  • connects learning to the lives of students, demonstrating the value of students’ home cultures and languages
  • sources relevant resources and adapts lessons to support the diversity of learners in the classroom.


The students:

  • feel their cultural history is acknowledged and valued within the school
  • can voice their cultural connections to mathematics
  • understand the connections between their culture and mathematics.

Examples of the strategy in action

First Nations Australians' histories and culture

The Goompi model 

The Goompi model is a way to connect culture and mathematics.

The 8 Ways model

The 8 Ways model is a framework for incorporating First Nations Australians' culture into the teaching of mathematics.

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Pattern hunt

This lesson follows the culturally responsive pedagogy framework incorporating Reality, Abstraction, Mathematics, Reflection (RAMR), which is at the heart of YuMi Deadly Maths resources.
Teachers may use these lessons to develop students' skills, knowledge and understanding of processes in mathematics. By working through two-way partnerships with their local First Nations school community, teachers can culturally customise the resources and content they include as part of these mathematics experiences.

Intercultural understandings

Calendar capers

This learning sequence provides ideas and classroom resources to extend students' familiarity with calendars: their structure, format, inherent patterns and uses. This resource covers elements of the general capability intercultural understanding.

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5 ancient maths games

Mathematics games have been played and enjoyed for thousands of years by civilisations across the world. Use these tried-and-true games from ancient times to expand and sharpen students’ mathematical skills.

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Games from Around the World

View the eight games and choose those of interest to your students.