This article uses the story of Whakatauihuihu to help describe how the teaching of mathematics in to reo Maori (the Maori language) has developed. It begins by recounting the enthusiasm of the teachers who worked on the development of the mathematics vocabulary in the 1980s, and then moves on to show how the teaching of mathematics in to reo Maori is no longer seen as an innovation that will solve all problems for Maori students. Instead, like a teenager going through the initial phase of self-reflection, teachers are now considering what teaching practices can support students and how these practices can be developed. The article concludes by looking at recent research carried out in Te Kura o to Koutu (Te Koutu School).
Long ago, well before our ancestors arrived herein Aotearoa, while they were still living in Hawaiki, there was a woman named Apakura.
To her surprise she miscarried, without even knowing that she was pregnant. She gathered up the clot of blood and gristle, wrapping it in her flax kilt. She walked down to the water's edge, and after singing her lament Apakura threw the bundle into the ocean waves.
The tide carried the bundle out to sea, where it slowly sank below the surface. As it dropped down to the sea floor, blood seeped through the sodden kilt. The kilt unravelled and bits of gristle were carried away by the current.
The bundle and its red plume came to the notice of Rongotakawhiu, a denizen of the deep. He opened the kilt and realised that the disintegrating clot was an undeveloped baby. Chanting spells he collected what he could from the ocean current in order to reassemble the baby. Unfortunately, some blood and gristle had been lost and so he formed the baby, a boy, with no genitals, deciding that all the other parts were more necessary for survival.
The baby was named Whakatauihuihu by his adoptive father, and Rongotakawhiu took it upon himself to teach the young child all that he knew, both practical and magical. He also gave Whakatauihuihu a kite, which was to prove his favourite pastime.
Introduction: a brief history
It has always been possible to describe and discuss traditional ethno-mathematical practices, such as navigating and weaving, using to reo Maori, and since the 19th century the Maori language has also been used to discuss Western mathematical ideas (Barton, Fairhall, & Trinick, 1995). However, during the 20th century active discouragement of its use in all aspects of New Zealand life resulted in to reo Mdori no longer being used in educational settings. The situation changed in the 1980s with the movement for the revival of to reo Maori, focusing on kohanga reo (Maori immersion preschools) and kura kaupapa Maori (Maori immersion primary schools). Teaching mathematics in to reo Maori, like the birth of Whakatauihuihu, was not a simple process.
The inspiration for the use of to reo Maori to teach mathematics came from teachers' strong belief that the Maori language could be used...
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