Technology use for mathematics teaching from early childhood to secondary school: drawing together the common threads for student engagement

Year: 2019

Author: Holmes, Kathryn, Attard, Catherine

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Technology use is commonplace in most early childhood settings and school classrooms, although there is evidence that it is used less frequently for teaching mathematics than for other subjects (OECD, 2019). Given the prevalence of high levels of student disengagement with mathematics, particularly as students move from primary into secondary school (Attard, 2010), we consider it timely to examine how teachers are using technology to maintain or enhance student engagement with mathematics at the various school stages. There is evidence that mathematics teachers use technology in diverse ways with some, for example, focusing on its potential to act as an organiser and delivery mechanism for learning materials and others on its capacity to illuminate key mathematical concepts (Heitink, Voogt, Verplanken, van Braak, & Fisser, 2016). Probing the decisions that teachers make about how, when and why to use technology, and how these decisions are influenced by their educational settings, can provide insights into the potential for technology to increase student engagement with mathematics regardless of the school context.

Drawing on an online survey of 406 mathematics teachers and multiple case studies with ten teachers perceived as exemplary teachers of mathematics by their peers, we tease out the commonalities and differences in teaching practices and attitudes across the early childhood, primary and secondary school years. Across all case studies we find that teachers use technology to enhance both their pedagogical practices and relationships with students. We find differences in the types of technology used between school stages and contend that its use is highly dependent on the educational context, community, culture and level of commitment of school staff. Also, we contend that careful attention needs to be applied to the interaction between technological tools, mathematics content and the pedagogical decisions that teachers make, if student engagement is to be maximised.


Attard, C. (2010). Students’ Experiences of Mathematics during the Transition from Primary to Secondary School. Shaping the Future of Mathematics Education: Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Conference of the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia. Presented at the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia, Fremantle, WA.

Heitink, M., Voogt, J., Verplanken, L., van Braak, J., & Fisser, P. (2016). Teachers’ professional reasoning about their pedagogical use of technology. Computers & Education, 101, 70–83.

OECD (2015). Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection, PISA OECD Publishing, Paris. DOI: