Justice and Ihumātao, and maths identities: Marsden success

The broad range of research interests within the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education and Social Work is well illustrated in the latest Marsden round.

A SOUL hīkoi from Ihumātao to PM Jacinda Ardern’s electorate office in Auckland on 22 August 2019, during the police occupation. Photo: Emily Parr

Two projects examining just constitutional relationships and maths’ students online ‘learner identity’ have received funding over three years.

Dr Frances Hancock, an honorary academic in Te Puna Wānanga at the faculty, is co-leading a research project awarded $838,000, alongside Professor Jenny Lee-Morgan (Te Whare Wānanga o Wairaka UNITEC) and Pūkenga Matua Carwyn Jones (Te Wānanga o Raukawa).

Their research will explore how to resolve the injustice of confiscated Māori land outside the scope of Crown Tiriti settlement policy through an in-depth study of what happened at Ihumātao.

Dr Lisa Darragh, a senior lecturer in the faculty, has a $360,000 Fast Start grant to understand how maths students view themselves as learners and how they feel about the subject of maths itself in an online context, with particular reference to marginalised groups.

She will be supported by associate investigator, Associate Professor Tony Trinick, with doctoral student Melina Amos also on the research team.

Matike Mai Te Hiaroa: #ProtectIhumātao

The marae-mandated, whānau-led project involving Dr Hancock analyses the long struggle for justice at Ihumātao that produced the high-profile Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL) Campaign, #ProtectIhumātao.

SOUL co-founders Pania Newton, Qiane Matata-Sipu and Moana Waa are associate investigators and University of Auckland PhD student Nicola Short is also on the research team, while esteemed Professors Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Waikato) and Tim McCreanor (Massey), archaeologist Dave Veart and a representative of Makaurau Marae in Ihumātao will form an advisory group for the project.

Ihumātao, a sacred site in south Auckland, became an internationally significant site of Indigenous-led protest in 2019 when police tried to evict whānau protesting the proposed development of unjustly confiscated ancestral whenua.

Thousands of supporters flocked to Ihumātao and the Crown eventually intervened and purchased the land in 2020. A process is underway to determine its future.

“To address the injustices and constitutional implications of this case requires an understanding of its troubled histories, heritage landscape and resistance movement, which are poorly understood, with Indigenous perspectives rarely heard,” says Dr Hancock.

This project will increase national and international understanding of what happened at Ihumātao.

Dr Frances Hancock Te Puna Wānanga, Faculty of Education and Social Work

Professor Lee-Morgan (Ngāti Mahuta, Te Ahiwaru), a co-primary investigator, highlights the project’s international relevance.

“Indigenous peoples around the world face similar experiences of corporate-driven land greed, usurped political authority and cultural and environmental destruction, contributing to the diminished health and wellbeing of our people. Our story, however, is about a legacy of perseverance, resilience and hope,” she says.

“Ihumātao raises profound questions about who we are as a nation, what we value, and the constitutional frameworks, relationships and collaborations needed to support Māori aspirations for mana motuhake, within and beyond existing Tiriti arrangements,” adds co-primary investigator Pūkenga Matua Jones (Ngāti Kahungunu).

"This project will increase national and international understanding of what happened at Ihumātao and inform insightful and rigorous theoretical explanations of its broader, multi-layered implications," says Dr Hancock.

Maths identity

Maths education is “hanging on the precipice of massive change”, with online learning rapidly accelerating for several reasons, says Dr Lisa Darragh.

“These include the Covid-19 pandemic, modern technological classrooms, and neoliberal agendas which allow for-profit corporations into schools; yet the field has not cast a critical eye on this situation, which makes this study particularly timely,” she says.

“Many students form problematic relationships with maths, which impacts on their future participation and success in mathematics-related careers, and this is why research attention to ‘mathematics learner identity’ is so crucial – particularly for marginalised groups in society.”

Worldwide, she says, the trend for online learning has enabled commercial programmes such as Mathletics or Study Ladder to become increasingly popular in schools, and yet we know little about how these settings affect students’ relationships with mathematics – that is, their maths learner identities.

Dr Lisa Darragh: “Many students form problematic relationships with maths, which impacts on their future participation and success in mathematics-related careers."

“One concern I have with the online learning platforms is that doing mathematics with these programmes is a context-free and individual experience; it doesn’t typically involve the rich and relevant, collaborative problem-solving style of learning we want in our maths classrooms, where we work on maths problems that stem from children’s actual communities, for example.

“On the other hand, there is one programme, Matific, that has been translated into te reo Māori, and so it helps to address the debilitating lack of resources for learning mathematics (pāngarau) in reo. The platforms may give considerable teacher support in either language context, so the situation is complex," she says.

The main aim of Dr Darragh’s research is to develop the theory of a learner identity as something learners do, or in fact ‘perform’, in particular situations and which changes according to time and context, and to then develop research practices that help the academic community understand and ‘see’ the concept in action.

“For example”, she says, “students disengaged and choosing to avoid maths that challenges them as opposed to students showing agency with their learning – setting goals and seeking out resources to help achieve them. Or students telling stories that draw on societal stereotypes, like, ‘maths is for nerds’, rather than creating new stories: ‘I like maths because it’s so relevant to me and my culture’. ”

She will be observing students in the classroom, and while they’re doing maths online, and employing a lens that encompasses wider social and political aspects of mathematics learning in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Te Pūtea Rangahau a Marsden, the Marsden Fund, has allocated $82.345 million to 120 research projects led by researchers in Aotearoa New Zealand. The fund is managed by Royal Society Te Apārangi on behalf of the New Zealand Government, with funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Media contact

Julianne Evans | Media adviser
M: 027 562 5868
E: julianne.evans@auckland.ac.nz