Pāngarau unleashed: A multiple case study of de-streaming secondary mathematics

Funding year: 
3 years
University of Canterbury
School sector
Project start date: 
March 2022
Project end date: 
March 2025
Principal investigator(s): 
Kay-Lee Jones, David Pomeroy, Nathan Riki and Sara Tolbert
Research team members: 
As above
Research partners: 
Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha–University of Canterbury; Te Pā o Rākaihautū; Te Kura o Hine Waiora–Christchurch Girls’ High School; Onslow College; Mana College; Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga–Ministry of Education; Tokona te Raki–Māori Futures Collective

Intro / Project description

Many secondary schools in Aotearoa currently ‘stream’ mathematics, despite evidence that streaming exacerbates achievement inequalities and harms self-confidence. The need to ‘de- stream’ mathematics is clear and widely endorsed. However, the transition to mixed ‘ability’ mathematics is challenging and complex, involving changes in pedagogy, assessment, leadership, and community relationships. This project will use a bi-cultural teacher-researcher-student partnership model, grounded in the principles of ako and whanaungatanga, to provide four contrasting case studies of non-streamed secondary mathematics. In doing so, it will illustrate diverse ways to initiate and sustain effective transitions to non-streamed mathematics. 


The broad aim of Pāngarau Unleased is to support a movement towards effective non-streamed practices in secondary mathematics. We define ‘effective’ practice as 1) improving mathematics learning, across the prior achievement spectrum; 2) supporting Māori to succeed in mathematics as Māori; 3) not increasing teachers’ workloads in the long term; 4) having credibility in the eyes of the wider school community. Our more specific aims are:
• To support our four school and pā wānanga partners to further enhance their non-streamed mathematics teaching practices
• To produce case studies of non-streamed practices, that other schools can learn from
• To better understand culturally empowering teaching practices in pāngarau mathematics
• To support school leaders in the management of effective de-streaming transitions
• To attend to and amplify  rangatahi and whānau experiences of streamed and non-streamed mathematics
• To evaluate our own collaborative model of supporting change

Why is this research important?

It is now clearly established that streaming has a lifelong impact on young people’s pathways through education and work, and how they perceive their own capabilities. These impacts can be negative for students at any level of achievement, including high stream students, however the most consistently negative impacts are experienced by students in low streams. Such students are disproportionately from Māori, Pasifika, and low socio-economic status backgrounds. This research is important because it is forward-looking, harnessing a wide range of experience and expertise to tell the story of how secondary mathematics could better support all young people to learn to their potential.

What we plan to do

We will tell the stories of three schools and one pā wānanga that teach mathematics without streaming, through the voices of rangatahi (students), kaiako (teachers), whānau, and iwi. We will describe and critically evaluate the reasons behind their practices, the barriers and enablers that they encountered as they removed streaming, and the role of our collaboration in supporting their non-streamed practices. Our research methods include:
• Termly partner hui, to explore practices, successes, and challenges
• Mutual observations by teachers, in their own and other settings
• Classroom observations by researchers, to document non-streamed practices in detail
• Rangatahi co-researchers, to give students ownership of their own stories
• Interviews with kaiako and tumuaki, to learn more about their practices, successes, and challenges
• Focus groups with whānau, to learn from their insights regarding streaming and non-streaming, and what they hope school mathematics will provide for their rangatahi
• Analysis of mathematics achievement data and participation rates in optional senior courses to evaluate key learning outcomes in non-streamed settings.
At the heart of our approach to this project is mana ōrite, or actively working against prevailing power imbalances through warm and respectful relationships. This approach will be present in the way we share our learning, for example by maintaining ongoing dialogue with iwi and policy makers throughout the project, and by including our school-based partners as co-presenters and co-researchers.

Contact details

Name: David Pomeroy

david.pomeroy@canterbury.ac.nz 03-3693017