Numeracy Across the Curriculum
Also take a look at our Leading and Managing Numeracy Across the Curriculum resource. This is a practical step-by-step guide drawing from strategies and initiatives that have worked in schools.
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:
- University of Essex
- Northern Ireland – Count Read Succeed (point 1.10 on page 3)
- Canada – Barett Rose & Lee Inc.
Identifiying numeracy skills across learning
We have developed our ‘Essentials of Numeracy for All' model which provides an overall picture of the numeracy landscape. It 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.
Attitudes to maths
Studies show that it is important to raise the profile of numeracy across learning and to promote a “can do” attitude, where teachers believe that all learners can think mathematically and they convince learners they can succeed.
Numeracy 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 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.
What the research says
What are others doing?
- Tutor Group Numeracy Projects at Patcham High School, Sussex
- Miss B's resources which partly focuses on numeracy across the curriulum #numeracy4all
- See what this PE teacher says about numeracy supporting their subject - plus his video here.
- Ideas from an AST in Suffolk - Numeracy Across the Curriculum
- Hwb, the all Wales virtual learning environment (VLE) - Numeracy across the curriculum
- Better Maths #mathschat on 'Which topics could we work together on with other subject & how?'
- Empowering teachers: success for learners (2013)
- Number and Calculation. Getting the best results
- Good practice case studies
- The Mathematics Skills of Schoolchildren: How does England compare to the high performing East Asian jurisdictions? (2013)
- Improving Literacy and Numeracy Achievement in Schools (2013)
- Evidence Spotlight on 'The Maths Gene'
- “Mathematics counts” The Cockcroft Report (1982)
- 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)
- Parents' Beliefs about Children's Maths Development and Children's Participation in Maths Activities (2012)