During the last two decades the teaching of mathematics in Australian primary schools has experienced widespread changes in content and method. These changes were introduced, mainly, in an attempt to overcome certain problems associated with the teaching of the subject. The views of psychologists and mathematicians influenced the new approaches to a greater extent than on any previous occasion.
At the outset this thesis discusses some of the problems encountered in the teaching of mathematics and outlines three areas.requiring attention. An overview is given of the place of mathematics in the primary school curriculum in South Australia and Victoria since the middle of the nineteenth century. In tracing this development, an historical setting is given for the current controversies in the teaching of mathematics. A number of important changes in the teaching of mathematics emerge. In particular the changes which have occurred during the last twenty years are considered in some detail. An attempt is made to compare these recent developments and special attention is given to the period since the Australian conference on primary school mathematics in 1964, when a major restructuring of courses was proposed.
Finally, it is shown that in attempting to overcome the problems associated with the teaching of mathematics, other factors have emerged which have implications for future developments. The current claim that the 3 R's have been neglected is likely to bring about a change in emphasis.