Dr Bobbie Hunter and
Dr Jodie Hunter

Sixty two per cent of Maori and Pasifika students are failing mathematics in New Zealand schools. Bobbie and Jodie Hunter are working to change this.

Dr Bobbie Hunter, a senior lecturer and researcher in mathematics education at the Albany campus and her daughter Jodie, an education PhD student, are redefining teacher education, hoping to help raise the academic achievement of not just Maori and Pasifika, but children of all cultures in New Zealand – even around the world.

They believe every child can be good at maths – it’s how they are taught that makes a difference. They believe the failure rate is not due to the culture of the children, but rather how teachers do not use the New Zealand curriculum in ways which build on the richness the children bring to school, especially for Maori and Pasifika pupils.

Together they are working on a government-funded project to develop a new teaching model for future maths teachers.

The project aims at changing attitudes towards mathematics by better preparing prospective teachers, and looking at new ways for them to approach the subject, based on taking children from where they are and supporting them to explain and justify their maths thinking.

Previous research has shown Māori and Pasifika students are not doing so well at school due to a number of factors, including how the culture in the classroom is not reflective of the culture known to Māori and Pasifika students, attending low-decile schools which often have less experienced teachers and streaming which puts children into lower groups, when often they are simply shy of speaking out. Bobbie’s ongoing research shows that if all students are put in mixed groups, of different levels of ability, Māori and Pasifika students learn better.

Although their research is focused on maths, the tools they create for teachers will be applicable to any subject in the New Zealand curriculum.

The research has been recognised in the UK, the US and Australia, and there is a chance their approach could be influential in many countries throughout the world if it is successful in New Zealand.

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