Document Type



Mathematics, Science & Technology Education Centre, Edith Cowan University

Place of Publication

Perth, Western Australia


Faculty of Education


Mathematics, Science & Technology Education Centre


Sparrow, L. & Swan, P. (1997). Calculator use in Western Australian primary schools. Perth, Australia: Mathematics, Science & Technology Education Centre, Edith Cowan University.


There are very few issues in mathematics teaching over the past twenty five years which have caused so much debate among teachers, parents and the community than the use of calculators in primary schools. Letters to newspapers, magazine articles and public comment often express the opinion that the apparent decline in the ability of young people to calculate, even simple computations, is a direct result of the use of calculators in schools. Anecdotal evidence in the form of reports from teaching practice students, personal observation in schools and comments from teachers suggests there is, in fact, very little calculator use in primary classrooms. Where a calculator is used it is for checkil1.g work- an electronic answer book - or for trivial activities, for example to make words appear on the display. No concerted, planned, integrated use as outlined by the Statement on the Use of Calculators and Computers for Mathematics in Australian Schools (AAMT, 1996) or the previous National statement on the use of calculators for mathematics in Australian schools (AAMT, 1987) has been observed at this anecdotal level. So if there is little or no calculator use in primary mathematics classes, what is the cause of this so-called decline in numeracy standards? Debate on this is left to another time.