Language, Culture and Learning Mathematics: A Bourdieuian Analysis of Indigenous Learning

Robyn Jorgensen

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapterpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Indigenous students in Australia perform poorly on testing measures (MCEETYA, 2009). This is of national concern and a priority for government, as evidenced in the ‘Closing the Gap’ initiative (FaHCSIA, 2009). Geographical location and poverty compound issues of indigeneity, so that Indigenous students in remote locations are most at risk of performing poorly on measures of literacy and numeracy. In this chapter, I seek to challenge the orthodoxy that poor performances among remote/Indigenous students are a consequence of constructs of ability or learning difficulties per se. Rather, I seek to illustrate how the mathematics curriculum delivered to Indigenous students represents a particular cultural form. This is particularly poignant as Australia moves to a national curriculum (National Curriculum Board, 2008). The difficulties in learning mathematics experienced by many Indigenous students can be thought of as a confrontation of language differences (and, by implication, culture). From this perspective, coming to learn mathematics is about ‘cracking the code’ through which mathematical concepts and processes are embedded and relayed, so that learning difficulties are viewed as structural difficulties rather than individual difficulties. By reconceptualising the ‘learning difficulties’ experienced by Indigenous learners in mathematics/numeracy, a more inclusive approach to educational reform can be envisaged and enacted.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMultiple Perspectives on Difficulties in Learning Literacy and Numeracy
EditorsClaire Wyatt-Smith, John Elkins, Stephanie Gunn
Place of PublicationNetherlands
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781402088643
ISBN (Print)9781402088636
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


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