Award for putting girls on right track
AUSTRALIND resident and Newton Moore Senior High School teacher Ashley Stewart has been recognised for her work inspiring Aboriginal girls to enjoy maths classes.
The school’s maths department head last week received the top teaching prize awarded by the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute for mentoring girls in maths.
Ms Stewart used hands-on projects, such as building a handcranked phone charger, to spark the interest of Year 8 Aboriginal girls in mathematical concepts.
Not only did the students show more interest in maths, she said, but their behaviour and atten- dance levels improved.
Ms Stewart, who studied engineering before becoming a teacher six years ago, said too many girls started believing they were not good at maths at a young age.
“I found there were too few women in engineering in general and I was quite bothered by that, because I didn’t feel supported,” she said.
“And I felt the only way to really get more women in the field was to teach them.”
Ms Stewart said she hoped to put the $20,000 prize towards buying a computer-based program to help girls develop their spatial awareness.
“The idea is that if we can increase that, it can help them visualise algebraic equations,” she said. Ms Stewart said her long-term aim was to improve Aboriginal students’ NAPLAN results and make sure they qualified for high school graduation by passing their Online Literacy and Numeracy Assessment.
“The first step is really getting them engaged, getting them to behave appropriately and stay at school, then, once they’re engaged we can teach them, keep them here and get them to pass,” she said.
Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute schools program manager Janine McIntosh said the award recognised Ms Stewart’s commitment to fostering teacher confidence and mathematical success.
Newton Moore Senior High School students Lynneya Coomer, 13, Georgia Pepper, 13, Tia Holt, 13, and Angel Anderson, 14, congratulate head of mathematics teacher Ashley Stewart on her national award.