Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours


School of Education


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Peter Reynolds


This paper examines the number sense of urban Aboriginal primary students attending school in Perth. The subjects were asked to complete a test designed to assess their number sense, which has been defined as "[a] propensity for and an ability to use numbers and quantitative methods as a means of communicating, processing and interpreting information" (McIntosh, Reys, Reys, Bana & Farrell, 1997, p. 61). It involves an intuitive understanding about numbers and how to use them in practical ways. Some subjects were also interviewed, so that a greater understanding of their number sens8 could be gained. It was found that there was a difference in the scores on the number sense test of the Aboriginal subjects and the scores of an Australian sample tested in an earlier study (McIntosh, Reys, Reys, Sana & Farrell, 1997). The Aboriginal sample group scored lower. However, there was a non-Aboriginal sample group tested in the current study. The number sense test scores of this group were not significantly different to those of the Aboriginal subjects. Several reasons, which are also seen as being limitations to this study, have been suggested for these results. The sample size was limited in the present study. The subjects were not randomly selected, and are not representative of the population. There are factors associated with the location of the school which are likely to influence the general academic performance of the subjects, as well as their performance on the number sense test. These factors include unemployment, low incomes and lack of formal qualifications in the homes of some of the subjects. Language differences and absenteeism were also considered as possible influences on the performance of the subjects on the number sense test. Some interesting cultural issues also arose, suggesting several avenues for further study. The study has supported previous research into the informal learning styles of Aboriginal people. Some important implications for classroom mathematics instruction arise from this. The informal learning styles need to be recognised and utilised in the classroom, so that Aboriginal students can focus more on the mathematics content of lessons. This includes presenting examples that are relevant and contain familiar objects or situations. The mathematical strengths of Aboriginal people also need to be recognised, valued and incorporated into the mathematics instruction in the classroom. Although limited in several ways, this research is valuable for the instruction of Aboriginal students in mathematics. It confirms and supports findings in previous research. Further research would be useful, and several suggestions as to the directions this could take are made.