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 many 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 for 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:
- University of Essex
- Northern Ireland – Count Read Succeed (point 1.10 on page 3)
- Canada – Barett Rose & Lee Inc.
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’, looking 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 maths department.
See this example from a teacher of maths at a Secondary School in Surrey.
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.
It is not a quirky optional subject but is fundamental to functioning effectively in employment and daily life.
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.
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 states that we are all born with the ability to learn the maths skills needed for everyday life.
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 resource area of our website includes useful summaries on attitudinal research including:
Hwb, the all Wales virtual learning environment (VLE) - Numeracy across the curriculum
Back to resources
- A synthesis of reports related to mathematics education in England
- “Mathematics counts” The Cockcroft Report (1982)
- Learning for Life: Education and Skills from Upper Secondary to Lifelong Learning
- Early Puzzle Play: published by the American Psychological Association 2011
- Predicting Long-Term Growth in Students’ Mathematics Achievement: The Unique Contributions of Motivation and Cognitive Strategies (2012)
- Family Learning Works (2013)
- Too young to fail (2013)
- Raising the bar: developing able young mathematicians (2012)
- Mathematics: made to measure (2012)
- Better Maths Better Future Videos - Week 1 & 2