Numeracy in Papua New Guinea : an investigation with particular reference to the relationship between number skill teaching and the use of the calculator
The thesis is the result of four years' work in mathematical education in Papua New Guinea. The first two years were spent in setting up a new Mathematics Education Centre at the University of Technology, Lae. A broad brief enabled the author to seek out the most crucial needs for the country and these appeared to lie in the area of basic number skills. Assessments of the situation and contributions to a changing attitude are described. This part of the thesis concludes with a critique of the role of a Mathematics Education Centre in a Third World country. The work had led to a conclusion that one of the priorities in mathematical education for the country lay in some form of adult numeracy campaign. At the same time the Department of Commerce had identified 'numeracy' as one of the prime needs for successful business development in Papua New Guinea. The author was therefore invited to spend a further two years in seeking to resolve this problem. The cheap long-life battery calculator became available at this point in time and provided the means for a possible solution. Its potential was appreciated and a grant was given from the Prime Minister's Nonformal Education Sectoral Fund to enable the author to research into ·the possibilities of adult numeracy teaching in the villages where 85% of the population lives. Detailed reports of the eighteen field tours undertaken are included in an appendix, together with some of the material specifically developed for the purpose. In this thesis the problems of organising an adult numeracy campaign in a country with poor communications and a limited budget are also considered. The thesis concludes with an attempt to identify the new style of teaching that will be required when a realistic use of the calculator is accepted as a normal part of the post-secondary and non-formal education system. This new style is seen to iriclude elements of the number skill teaching that was the prime concern of the first two years. References are made to the relatively few attempts to. teach adult numeracy in the Third World and also to some attempts in the developed world to meet the challenge presented by the incorporation of the calculator into the formal system of education.