Reintroducing Māori ethnomathematical activities into the classroom: traditional Māori spatial orientation concepts


  • Tony Trinick University of Auckland
  • Tamsin Meaney Bergen University College
  • Uenuku Fairhall



Māori mathematical practices were excluded from schooling in Aotearoa/New Zealand for over 150 years as a result of explicit policies precluding the use of the Indigenous language and culture. As a consequence of the range of assimilationist policies, by the 1970s, the Māori language was considered endangered. In response to the perilous state of the language, Māori communities set up their own schools, initially outside of the state system, to support the revitalisation of the language and culture. However, the reintroduction of the cultural knowledge in areas such as mathematics has not matched language revitalisation efforts. Many original ethnomathematical practices are no longer in general use in the Indigenous community and the practices valued by the European majority remain the norm in the state-mandated school curricula. Spatial orientation is an example of the mathematics curricula content that is based on Western mathematical perspectives. To provide a Māori perspective, this paper draws on interviews with elders and historical data to examine Māori spatial orientation terms and the spatial frames of references that they are derived from. Students in a Māori-medium school were tested on their understanding of this traditional knowledge. As a consequence, a series of learning activities based on Māori spatial orientation concepts were developed and trialled. The outcomes of these learning activities showed some increased understandings about Māori spatial orientation concepts.


Las practicas matemáticas maoríes fueron excluidas de la escolarización en Aotearoa / Nueva Zelanda durante más de 150 años, como resultado de las políticas explícitas que impiden el uso de la lengua y cultura indígena. Como consecuencia de la gama de políticas asimilacionistas, para la década de 1970, el idioma maorí fue considerado en peligro de extinción. En respuesta a la peligrosa situación de la lengua, las comunidades maoríes crearon sus propias escuelas, en un principio fuera del sistema estatal, para apoyar la revitalización de la lengua y la cultura. Sin embargo, la reintroducción de los conocimientos culturales en áreas como las matemáticas no ha igualado los esfuerzos de revitalización del idioma. Muchas prácticas etnomatemáticas originales ya no son de uso general en la comunidad indígena y las prácticas valoradas por la mayoría de Europa siguen siendo la norma en los programas escolares exigidos por el estado. Orientación espacial es un ejemplo del contenido de los planes de estudio de matemáticas que se basa en perspectivas matemáticas occidentales. Para proporcionar una perspectiva maorí, este documento se basa en entrevistas con los ancianos y los datos históricos para examinar términos de orientación espacial maoríes y los marcos espaciales de las referencias que se derivan de estos. Los estudiantes en una escuela Māori-medium school fueron probados en su comprensión de su conocimiento tradicional. Como consecuencia de ello, una serie de actividades de aprendizaje basadas en conceptos maoríes de orientación espacial se desarrolló y probó. Los resultados de estas actividades de aprendizaje mostraron el aumento de algunos entendimientos sobre conceptos maoríes de orientación espacial.


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Biografía del autor/a

Tony Trinick, University of Auckland

University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.

Uenuku Fairhall

Te Kura Kaupapa, Māori o Te Koutu, Rotorua, New Zealand.


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Cómo citar

Trinick, T., Meaney, T., & Fairhall, U. (2015). Reintroducing Māori ethnomathematical activities into the classroom: traditional Māori spatial orientation concepts. Revista Latinoamericana De Etnomatemática Perspectivas Socioculturales De La Educación Matemática, 8(2), 415-431. Recuperado a partir de