Culturally relevant tasks and Påsifika students' participation and engagement in mathematics : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Education in Mathematics Education, Massey University (Manawatu), New Zealand
Påsifika students’ academic achievement in mathematics continues to remain a
priority for New Zealand education (Ministry of Education, 2013). Research in
both the New Zealand and international contexts identifies the need for New
Zealand classrooms to foster culturally responsive and mathematical practices
that align with Påsifika students’ cultural values, backgrounds, interests and
experiences. As a result, Påsifika students will have increased opportunities to
participate and engage in mathematics while developing a cultural identity
within New Zealand classrooms.
This study utilised the Påsifika students’ and their families’ funds of knowledge
to design culturally relevant mathematical tasks. These tasks were used within
the students’ mathematics classroom where the teacher was supported to
implement culturally responsive and mathematical practices. It examined how
the use of culturally relevant tasks while enacting the reviewed cultural and
mathematical practices could foster Påsifika students’ participation and
engagement in mathematics.
This study used qualitative research methods with an ethnographic case study
approach while drawing on Påsifika research frameworks (Lemanu, 2014;
Sauni, 2011). 11 Year 5 and Year 6 students who descended from the Pacific
Islands participated in this study. Semi-structured interviews were completed at
the beginning and end to find out the Påsifika students’ perspectives about their
experiences of their culture and mathematics. Throughout the study, photoelicitation
interviews were used to identify Påsifika students’ cultural funds of
knowledge and mathematical experiences that they engaged in outside of
school. This information was used to work with the classroom teachers to
design culturally relevant mathematics tasks. Observations were made of the
students’ behaviour and interactions while working on these tasks within their classroom setting. After each observation, focus group interviews were
conducted to gain insight into the students’ perspectives of the task and
learning experience. The use of a variety of methods provided greater evidence
of data that I drew on to support my findings.
The results illustrated key findings and recommendations that have been
visually represented using a frangipani (kalosipani/ pua fiti/ fiti pua/ tipani)1 ulalei2.
Each petal on the frangipani flower represents the key themes that
emerged. These are as follows; mathematics at home and school, culturally
relevant tasks, funds of knowledge, collaborative grouping and mathematical
disposition and cultural identity. These key themes are supported by a group of
learners which include parents, teachers and students and are bound together
by the core Påsifika values. The key themes, community of learners and
cultural values form the ula-lei. This study revealed these components as being
effective practices that educators should develop to support Påsifika learners’
participation and engagement in mathematics.