Traditional counting systems and their relevance for elementary schools in Papua New Guinea.

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Nearly 900 of the 1200 counting systems of Papua New Guinea and Oceania have been documented, at least to a basic level (Lean, 1991; 1993). These counting systems are quite varied and it is clear that each traditional Papua New Guinean culture had its own mathematics. The differences between counting systems makes the data rich, interesting, and useful for teaching at many levels of mathematics, but the basics in traditional mathematics like counting can provide meaning in elementary school mathematics education. For many Papua New Guinean teachers, there has been little opportunity to explore the relevance of culture and language and the basics of mathematics. It is difficult to come to grips with this relevance when you begin with the belief that mathematics is what you learnt in school and irrelevant to everyday life (Kaleva, 1998). Even when you are interested in traditional mathematics, it is still hard to incorporate it into the curriculum without further input from researchers. This article covers briefly the range of counting systems found in Papua New Guinea and provides some links with research on children learning to count. It is hoped that elementary teachers will be encouraged to research their own traditional mathematics and to teach basic mathematics concepts using Tok Ples words and traditional mathematics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-72
Number of pages11
JournalPapua New Guinea journal of education
Issue number1 / 2
Publication statusPublished - 2000


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