Faculty of Science - Leading creativity and innovation in the sciences

Department of Mathematics

Facing the ongoing challenge of a transient student cohort

Current tuakana mentors and students solving maths equations on a whiteboard

The Tuākana Programme in the Department of Mathematics faces the challenge of having a transient student cohort, whereby many first year students are only in the department to take one or two papers that are required as part of another academic programme outside of science.

This makes it particularly difficult for the department to create a sense of community for their Māori and Pasifika students, when the students themselves don’t necessarily feel connected to the subject of maths. This is a challenge that the department is still working to solve, however there have been a number of positive changes and developments since 2001 that have shaped the Tuākana Maths Programme that we see today.

In the early years, the programme was based on a mentoring model where all new Māori and Pasifika students were assigned a mentor, and each mentor was assigned 10 first year students. Mentors then provided ongoing pastoral support as well as some academic tuition to their students as required throughout their first year of study.

Over time however, it became clear that what students really wanted was academic tuition to help them get through a subject that is generally seen by non-maths majoring students as being quite difficult.

So, the programme switched to a more tutoring focused model (developed over time based on feedback from students as well as regular monitoring of participation).

Today, the programme offers two three-hour tutoring sessions each week (with pizza provided every Wednesday), and tutors (often second or third year students) are assigned to specific courses which they are responsible for. All undergraduate maths papers are covered in the programme to ensure that all skills levels in maths are catered to – and one on one tutoring is also offered.

To facilitate social engagement between students, social gatherings are regularly arranged. The CoMPaSs event at the start of the year, which brings together students from Computer Science, Maths,Physics and Statistics, is a great place for students to see that their Māori and Pacific peers are involved in a broad range of science programmes, while also getting enrolment advice about which courses to take – and regular social lunches are held to enable students to come together in an informal setting throughout the duration of their courses.

As Maths is a subject that is often perceived as being ‘difficult’, the programme tries to celebrate achievement and involvement by awarding all students in the programme who receive an A grade in their maths papers with a $50 book voucher.

While it is not yet clear the impact that these awards are having, the general feel is that they have helped encourage students to work harder, and build a more feel good understanding around the programme.

Meet our people - past and present

  • Sina Greenwood

    Sina Greenwood is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mathematics

  • Vera Clarkson

    Vera is a current student and Tuākana mentor in the Department of Statistics, and Department of Mathematics.

  • Joseph Peni

    Joseph Peni graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Applied Mathematics in 2008 and has been a key contributor to the Tuākana in Science programme for over eight years.

Key contacts

Programme Coordinators:

Sina Greenwood
Email: sina@math.auckland.ac.nz

Michael Lockyear
Email: mloc017@aucklanduni.ac.nz

Further information

For further information about the Tuākana Programme in the Department of Mathematics, please visit their website.