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Maths Promotion Programme Aimed At Whole Community

Joint media release from Manukau City Council and the University of Auckland
New Maths Promotion Programme Aimed At The Whole Community

Manukau mayor Sir Barry Curtis has responded to criticisms of a proposal for the Council to fund a maths promotion programme in Manukau City. He says the programme will be broad in scope and community-wide. "It is not being targeted at low-income schools alone, nor exclusively at Maori and Pacific Island children."

The Mathematics Enhancement Project was initiated by the University of Auckland. Co-ordinator of the Project, Bill Barton of the University's Mathematics Education Unit, says the aim is to promote mathematics as a valuable, interesting and productive subject for everyone in the community to study and work with throughout their lives." The Royal Society of New Zealand has already partially funded this community promotion.

Mr Barton says the programme will work in parallel with a Mathematics Enhancement Project aimed at senior mathematics students in decile 1 and 2 schools in the region, but that the Mathematics Promotion in Manukau project has a separate organisation. "We hope, of course, that the community promotion will support the study of mathematics in schools."

Sir Barry says, "It is an excellent idea and I strongly support it as an investment in Manukau's younger generation, and in the future of the country as a whole. The Council's original announcement of the proposal was not well phrased and it should have been clearer, but the claims that the project is racially based are not correct. The pupils' background is irrelevant.

"The programme will benefit children of many different backgrounds in poorer areas who happen to be in decile one and two schools. There are pupils from many different racial groups in these schools, including European youngsters and children from the 150 plus nationalities now living in Manukau. But Maori or Pacific Island families predominate in these areas.

"This type of initiative is not new for the Council. We see our role as being more than simply a provider of roads, rubbish collection and parks. We have a wider responsibility to foster improvement in the quality of life in the City, which includes community development in the widest sense and that requires working in partnership with other organisations."

The decile rating of a school is determined by the socio-economic level of the surrounding community. Decile one schools are in low income areas, and
decile ten schools are in affluent areas. Manukau has almost half the decile one schools in New Zealand.

Sir Barry says, "You can't surf the knowledge wave if you don't have a surfboard. In many parts of the city our children are way behind in maths and science knowledge. This maths teaching programme will give these youngsters an essential skill that will have lifelong benefits.

"We need to upskill our citizens in order to become a technology-literate society in the 21st century and we must start with school children. Anyone who can't read will be equally cut off in future, but schools are already working on improving reading levels.

"The Council has adopted the Smart Manukau strategy to help us grasp the opportunities becoming available. We will be working with other major institutions such as Manukau Institute of Technology. But to reach our goal we need the whole of the younger generation to have the right skills.

"More than half our population is non-European and that percentage will only increase in future. At the moment there are virtually no Maori or Pacific students studying maths or science-based tertiary studies. Not only does the country need more scientists to help develop the economy, but we need to get our Maori and Pacific Island young people interested in this career direction. That, we hope, will be a spin off from this maths promotion programme."


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