New Cur 25: Some Cultures Are More Equal Than Others

It’s a mathematics curriculum: one does not expect much history or many references to other cultures. Typically there are a few Roman numerals, a quick hello to Pythagoras and Archimedes, and that’s about it. More would be good, but it is not to be expected.

The new mathematics curriculum includes some cultural and historical elaborations. It is not exactly balanced. Some of this material may be natural inclusion, but most seem more to be addressing the three cross-curriculum priorities, of ATSI history and culture, Asia and sustainability. One of these priorities is demonstrably much more of a priority.

In our last New Cur post, we noted that the mathematics curriculum includes eighty-nine (mostly poor) elaborations based around Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander history and culture. What else is there? The ATSI material aside, we could locate just fourteen elaborations that could even remotely be considered to be concerning history or other culture; we’ve listed them below. Numbers cannot tell the whole story, but 89/14 is a hell of a fraction.


discussing how different cultures may have alternative ways of representing the count; for example, discussing how people of the Asia region use an abacus or Chinese hand gestures (AC9MFN03)


recognising that numbers are used in all languages and cultures but may be represented differently in words and symbols; for example, through kanji numbers in Japanese and characters in Chinese, and that there are alternate numeration systems; for example, using special characters for 10 and 100 and other multiples of 10 in Japanese and Chinese numeration (AC9M1N01)

using different variations of the popular Korean counting game Sam-yuk-gu for generating skip counting pattern sequences (AC9M1A01)


identifying and locating specific days or dates on a calendar; for example, school holidays, sports days, ANZAC Day, Easter, Diwali or Ramadan (AC9M2M03)


comparing the Hindu-Arabic numeral system to other numeral systems; for example, investigating the Japanese numeral system,  一、十、百、千、万 (AC9M3N01)


using stimulus materials such as the motifs in Central Asian textiles, Tibetan artefacts, Indian lotus designs and Islamic artwork to investigate and discuss line and rotational symmetry (AC9M3SP01)


using different strategies used to multiply numbers, explaining how they work and if they have any limitations; for example, discussing how the Japanese visual method for multiplication is not effective for multiplying larger numbers (AC9M5N06)



investigating π as the constant in the proportional relationship between the circumference of a circle and its diameter, and historical approximations from different civilisations, including Egypt, Babylon, Greece, India and China (AC9M7M03)

modelling and solving practical problems involving ratios of length, capacity or mass, such as in construction, design, food or textile production; for example, mixing concrete, the golden ratio in design, mixing a salad dressing (AC9M7M06)


investigating the golden ratio in art and design, and historical approximations to π in different societies (AC9M8N01)

discussing and comparing different applications, demonstrations and proofs of Pythagoras’ theorem, from Egypt and Mesopotamia, Greece, India and China with other historical and contemporary applications and proofs  (AC9M8M06)


investigating a range of data and its sources; for example, the age of residents in Australia, Cambodia and Tonga; the number of subjects studied at school in a year by 14-year-old students in Australia, Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Timor-Leste

investigating where would be the best location for a tropical fruit plantation by conducting a statistical investigation comparing different variables such as the annual rainfall in various parts of Australia, Indonesia, New Guinea and Malaysia, land prices and associated farming costs (AC9M9ST01)

YEAR 10 

investigating the use of networks to represent authentic situations; for example, rail or air travel between or within London, Paris, Hong Kong; a food web representing a simple eco-system; metabolic networks and other chemical or biological structures (AC9M10SP02)

7 Replies to “New Cur 25: Some Cultures Are More Equal Than Others”

  1. On the Year 2 elaboration about dates, the attached paper may be useful – not for Year 2; more likely a secondary resource.

    On the Year 7 elaboration dealing with textiles: An interesting reference is Virginia Postrel (2020), “The fabric of civilization: How textiles made the world”. Basic Books, chapter 3.

    On the year 9 elaboration, it’s Papua New Guinea.


  2. I am reading this and don’t know how to respond to this sanctimonious nonsense. Strange times, very strange.

    1. At least in formal documents such as the curriculum, I find the lack of sanctimony to be striking. The writers are so convinced of their rightness, and so convinced that everyone else (who matters) is convinced, they are willing to state blatant nonsense as straight fact.

  3. ” writers are so convinced of their rightness” – isn’t that a definition of sanctimonious?

    1. I think of “sanctimonious” as explicitly declaring the rightness/righteousness, rather than it being implicit. It doesn’t matter: either way, they’re full of it.

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