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Special thanks to Barry Kissane for researching and submitting the following article


This historical note consists of extracts from an article written in 1979 by Larry Blakers, in Number 100 of Sigma, the former MAWA journal:

It is impossible to pinpoint exactly the first discussions concerning the founding of an organisation concerned with the teaching of mathematics, but I remember talking about the possibility of such a development with Frank Gamblen, after I returned from the South Asian Conference on Mathematical Education in early 1956. I also remember that Ernie Bowen, then a lecturer in the Mathematics Department of the University of W.A., was keen to see established here a branch of the Mathematical Association (of Great Britain); he had been a member of the Mathematical Association of Victoria before coming to Perth.

The first formal steps appear to have been taken in 1958. As the result of an informal meeting held on May 22, 1958, I distributed a circular (dated July 18, 1958) “To All Persons Interested in the Teaching of Mathematics”. (A copy is appended.) This circular indicated that a provisional decision had been made at the May meeting that steps be taken to form a Western Australian branch of the Mathematical Association (of Great Britain). The meeting of August 6, 1958, which was held in the (old) Physics Lecture Theatre, University of W.A., approved two resolutions which I had foreshadowed in the circular:

“That this meeting approves in principle the proposal to found a Western Australian branch of the Mathematical Association.

That Mr F. Gamblen be appointed provisional President, and asked to convene a provisional committee as soon as possible, with the view to submitting at an early date, concrete proposals (including a draft constitution) to a General Meeting of interested persons.”

At that time Frank Gamblen was absent on Study Leave, and I was on the eve of departure for Study Leave. Prior discussions with Frank had indicated his willingness to take on such a responsibility.

It is worth noting that the background paper distributed with the above circular gave a brief history of the Mathematical Association and of its Australian affiliations. The Mathematical Association itself had been formed in 1871 as the “Association for the Improvement of Geometrical Teaching”. At the time of the circular (July 1958) there were three branches in Australia: The Mathematical Association of Victoria, founded in 1906 (as the Melbourne Mathematical Society); the Mathematical Association of New South Wales, founded in 1910; and the Queensland Mathematical Association, founded in 1922.

The General Meeting (foreshadowed in the second resolution passed on August 6, 1958) was held on 26 February, 1959, with Frank Gamblen in the chair. The following office bearers were elected: (Names are shown as they appear in the Minutes.)

  • President: Mr F. Gamblen (University)
  • Vice-presidents: Mr S. T. Waddell (Technical Education)
  • Bro. W. G. Hall (Roman Catholic School)
  • Secretary: Dr H. Briner (University)
  • Treasurer: Mr E. W. Bowen (University)
  • Committee: Miss J. Chisslett (Independent Hlgh School)
  • Miss E. Ellershaw (Independent Hlgh School)
  • Mr J. R. Greenway (Teachers’ Training College)
  • Mr F. Samuel (Education Department High School)

The yearly subscription was set at £2 for Full Members and 15/- for Associate Members.

The Mathematical Association was informed (by Dr H. Briner, Secretary, M.A.W.A.) in a letter dated 10 March, 1959, that “a West Australian Branch of your Association has been formed in Perth”.

Thus, the Mathematical Association of Western Australia can be regarded as coming into being from August 6, 1958.

Extra note:
In part as a result of the considerable influence of Professor Larry Blakers, the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers was founded in 1966, as a federation of Affiliated Associations. The Mathematical Association of Western Australia was one of the original Affiliated Associations, and has remained so until the present day.