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Numeracy Across the Curriculum

We have been contacted by a number of schools who are implementing numeracy across the curriculum and have drawn together the following content.

Definition of numeracy

Numeracy means different things to different people. We see numeracy as a life skill. Being numerate goes beyond simply ‘doing sums’; it means having the confidence and competence to use numbers and think mathematically in every day life.

For our master-definition of what is numeracy, we choose the international description of mathematical literacy:

Mathematical literacy is an individual’s capacity to identify and understand the role that mathematics plays in the world, to make well-founded judgements and to use and engage with mathematics in ways that meet the needs of that individual’s life as a constructive, concerned and reflective citizen. (PISA)

The term numeracy was coined in 1959 by a committee on education in the UK which said ‘numeracy’ should ‘represent the mirror image of literacy’ (Crowther Report).

A selection of other definitions can be found here:

Essentials of numeracy

We have developed our ‘essentials of numeracy for all model’ which provides an overall picture of the numeracy landscape and attempts to illustrate all the key skills that define ‘being numerate’, aiming to show the important linkages between these elements rather than an unprioritised ‘tick list’ of skills.

This can be used across the curriculum and not just the by maths department.

See this example from a teacher of maths at a secondary school in Surrey plus with an update from them here.

Attitudes to maths

Studies show that it is important to raise the profile of numeracy and to promote a “can do” attitude where teachers believe that all learners can think mathematically and they convince learners they can succeed.

Being numerate is important

Numeracy is not a quirky optional subject but is fundamental to functioning effectively in employment and daily life.

What is I can’t do maths all about?

In the UK it’s common to hear someone say ‘I can’t do maths’. Parents freely admit they ‘can’t do maths’ to their children, friends to their peers - it’s even in the films and TV shows that we watch.

The ‘I can’t do maths’ attitude is highly damaging; if people repeatedly hear ‘I can’t do maths’, they begin to believe that maths isn’t important.

All in the genes?

The biggest myth about maths is that it is something that you either can or cannot do.

But everyone can do maths. Neuroscientist Brian Butterworth points out that we are all born with 'a mathematical brain' - that is the potential to understand and use numbers.  

Virtually everyone can use and understand the maths needed for everyday life, and we work to encourage perseverance in those who are overcoming or facing mathematical struggle.


The evidence area of our website includes useful summaries on attitudinal research and you can watch this short video.

Numeracy Across the Curriculum in Action

Tutor Group Numeracy Projects at Patcham High School, Sussex.

Leading and Managing Numeracy Across the Curriculum publication.

See what this PE teacher says about numeracy supporting their subject.

Ideas from an AST in Suffolk - Numeracy Across the Curriculum.

Hwb, the all Wales virtual learning environment (VLE) - Numeracy across the curriculum


Tell us about your experiences implementing numeracy across the curriculum.

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