Education authorities and graphics calculators

Education authorities in different countries and states have responded in various ways to the development of graphics calculators. In Australia, extraordinarily for a country with less than 20 million people, each of the states has its own education authority, with its own position on questions such as the appropriateness of technology for mathematics in schools. (Each state tends to regard its own system as superior in some sense to all the others. Needless to say, almost all states are wrong in this respect!) On this page, links to some of these official responses are provided, but please note that this information is now seriously outdated and is of historical value only.

Please note that information on this page is NOT official and is provided for ease of comparison only: any official positions and recent changes of policy may be found by following the relevant links or making enquiries directly to the relevant authorities.

This page is clearly incomplete, but I hope to augment it with information from other places or with recent changes. Any advice would be appreciated! In particular, please send me an email if you know of the appropriate URL's or detect any errors on the page.

[NSW] [Qld] [SA] [Tas] [Vic] [WA]




Australian Capital Territory
Details coming

New South Wales
It appears that scientific calculators are still used at the senior school level, although some curriculum development is presently being undertaken. Some NSW Board of Studies regulations are available at HSC calculator use in 2001. At present, only one HSC course (General Mathematics, which is not intended for the strongest mathematics students, permits graphics calculator use in official examinations. Interested readers should make enquiries of The Board or interrogate the BOS website.

Northern Territory
Details coming

Details coming. The use of calculators appears to be at the discretion of individual schools, as there is no centrally regulated external examination system. It seems that some schools make extensive use of graphics calculators, while others make no use. The Queensland Studies Authority website gives an overview of assessment practices in Queensland, although it does not specifically refer to the use of graphics calculators.

South Australia
Graphics calculators are permitted for use in some SA public examinations in 2004. Some information is available at the SSABSA Mathematics Learning Area page. [SSABSA means Senior Secondary Assessment Board of South Australia.]

The Tasmanian Secondary Assessment Board website will be the appropriate place to find information regarding Tasmanian use of graphics calculators, which seem still to be prohiobited for examination purposes in mathematics and other subjects. Interested readers should make their own enquiries and/or explore this site.

Graphics calculators are permitted in some senior secondary school external examinations. The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority site contains various information regarding the VCE. The VCE Bulletin of March 1999, pp 6-7 contained the following information:

The Board of Studies will publish annually in the VCE BULLETIN an approved list of graphics calculators which may be taken into examinations. Graphics calculators which are not on this list are not approved, unless special permission is obtained from the Board of Studies. The list may be updated periodically. Approved graphics calculators for 1999 were:

CFX-9850G, CFX-9850G PLUS, CFX-9850GB PLUS, CFX-9950G, CFX-9800G, FX-9700G, FX-7700G, FX-7300G, FX-7400G, FX-8500G

EL-9600, EL-9400. EL-9300. EL-9200

Texas Instruments
TI-83, TI-82, TI-85, TI-86, TI-81, TI-80 (Note: TI-89 and TI-92 series were not approved)
The conditions under which graphics calculators were to be used were described below:

Schools must comply with the Board's requirements in relation to supervising student use of graphics calculators in examinations. Schools are required to certify that all students from the school undertaking examinations which permit the use of calculators:

Declaration forms will be provided to school principals prior to the June examination period.

Interested readers should examine recent Bulletins, which are available for download from the VCAA site.

Of particular interest is the use of CAS calculators (ie algebraic calculators) in a pilot program over recent years. Interested readers should refer to CAS Pilot Studies.



Western Australia
In Western Australia, the Curriculum Council of WA is responsible for school curricula in mathematics (as well as other subjects). The use of graphics calculators is expected in senior secondary school mathematics courses and external examinations (called Tertiary Entrance Examinations). In Physics and Chemistry courses, students are permitted to bring graphics calculators into external examinations. Details of approved calculators are provided for students in the TEE handbook. The link shows the 2002 version. In the particular case of Chemistry, the syllabus notes that: No question will be set that requires the use of functions other than those on a scientific calculator.

An early paper commisioned by the Secondary Education Authority (a precursor to the Curriculum Council) outlines some of the issues associated with the use of graphics calculators in senior secondary school. Current syllabuses are most easily available from the Council website. The website also contains information on the external Tertiary Entrance Examinations, for which graphics calculator use is expected, as well as assessment support advice on the incorporation of graphics calculators into assessment programs.

The Education Department of Western Australia provide detailed resources related to the place of graphics calculators in WA schools. In particular, the policy statements clarify the Department of Education and Training and the Curriculum Council position on the role of graphics calculators in schools. Again, care is needed to check that the latest policies are being read.




The Advanced Placement (AP) program of the College Board for more than a decade has expected that graphics calculators will be used in significant national examinations in Calculus and Statistics. Successful performance on these examinations provides advanced standing in college mathematics at US universities. Detailed advice on the place of graphics calculators in the AP Calculus AB course and the AP Calculus BC course is available on the College Board's website. Of particular interest is the perspective: "Exam restrictions should not be interpreted as restrictions on classroom activities." You may also be interested in the AP Statistics course, for which graphics calculator use is also expected.

Recent information on calculator use in AP exams seems harder to find than it was previously, possibly because calculator use has become normalised in quantitative AP courses.



Other countries

Any advice? Help?

Last updated on 22 February 2004