Calculators as an Agent for Change
in the Teaching of Primary
Mathematics: The Victoria College Calculator Project

Year: 1991

Author: Groves, Susie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The Victoria College Calculator project is a long-term investigation into the effects of the introduction of calculators on the learning and teaching of primary mathematics. It is based on the premise that calculators have the potential to significantly change mathematics curriculum and teaching, but that there is little evidence that such changes are commonly occuring. The project commenced in 1990 with nine preparatory and grade 1 classes at two schools and is designed to continue through to grade 4 in 1993. Victoria College has funded the first two years of the project, with 13 preparatory to grade 2 classes participating in the project in 1991. All children in the project are "given" their own calculator to use and teachers are provided with systematic professional support, although they are not provided with curriculum materials or classroom activities. The investigation focusses on the extent and purpose of calculator use; changes in teachers' expectations of children's mathematical performance and consequent changes in the curriculum; and changes in teachers' beliefs and teaching practice. Funding has also been obtained from the ARC for a joint project with Melbourne University to investigate the learning outcomes for children at a total of six schools where similar use is being made of calculators. This paper gives an overview of the Victoria College project and outlines findings from its first two years. Results of a large scale survey indicate that support for calculator use, especially in the junior primary grades, is frequently not matched by practice. Project teachers, however, are demonstrating a wide range of uses for calculators with young children, changing their expectations of mathematical performance and beginning to make tentative changes in the ways in which they approach their mathematics teaching as a whole.