Vale Roland Mortlock (1932 – 2019)

Members will be saddened to hear of the passing of Roly Mortlock. He
was an unsung hero of mathematics education in Western Australia. He
earned an Honours degree in mathematics from UWA and a PhD from
the University of Michigan.

Roly made sustained and substantial contributions to mathematics
education generally and to the Mathematical Association of WA in
particular. He initiated the Master of Science Education (Mathematics)
at UWA in the 1970s which had a significant impact on many of the
foremost mathematics educators in WA, including those who then went
on to make important contributions as staff members at Murdoch
University; Curtin University; TAFE; and the Claremont, Graylands and
Mount Lawley Teachers’ Colleges, which later became ECU

He was truly a Mathematics Education pioneer who will be fondly
remembered by those that knew him personally, and sadly missed by all.

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One Comment

  1. Barry

    As one of the fortunate people to have studied under and worked with Roly Mortlock, I can well remember his contributions to the professional lives of many people (certainly including myself) via his work at UWA, but also his very significant contributions to the wider professional community.

    A sampling of these other roles include those at MAWA, for which he served as President at least twice, and for which he played important leadership roles in many other respects as well, as a prominent mathematics educator on the Committee, who also used his personal influence to ensure that the Committee had a broad representation of people from different spheres of mathematics education. He was a key person in MAWA’s first hosting of the AAMT Conference in 1976, especially engaged with the keynote speakers (as few other local people were familiar with mathematics education outside WA) as well as other program matters.

    Roly was also a critical person for two important publications of MAWA (which had not previously been involved in publishing books), both of which arose from the disciplined work of senior students in the MScEd course at UWA. One of these was a collection of 100 mathematical problems, assembled to provide a resource for schools and mathematics teachers at a time when Problem Solving was being promoted as an important feature of mathematics in schools, including primary schools. This book was translated into Japanese and marketed in Japan as well as locally, providing significant resources for MAWA. The second book was concerned with mathematical investigations, also of curricular interest, to recognise the importance of flexible and independent mathematical thinking. In both cases, Roly was a key member of the team of authors, ensuring that the work met his high standards before publication. The investigations book, together with a companion work, is still available from MAWA. Although the writing of these books was shared activity, without Roly’s influence, persuasion and expertise, neither would have happened.

    Roly was involved with the Australian Mathematics Teacher journal (with special responsibilities for research), again in part as few people in Australia were familiar with research in mathematics education. He attended the inaugural MERGA conference in 1977 and was one of the organisers of the first MERGA conference in Perth (in 1983).

    In hindsight, Roly Mortlock was a sort of unsung hero, although many of the professional activities in Mathematics Education in which we engage now were heavily influenced by him in the 1970s and 1980s.

    Those of us who worked with him or studied under him all speak very highly of the experience: a terrific collaborator and colleague and a great leader – in short, he was a wonderful and selfless contributor to his profession.

    Barry Kissane

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