This page is for teachers, tutors and
instructors working with learners of any age
and learning in any context, teaching maths
We hope that this page will provide both a useful overview of the key elements of teaching numeracy and guide you towards useful resources and research both within and outside our site – however we are just getting started so please do help us develop further support as suggested in ‘How you can make a difference’ below.
Being numerate is a crucial lifeskill. Here is our definition of numeracy and our thoughts on numeracy vs. maths - including numeracy versus teaching maths in the classroom. It provides an individual with the essential knowledge, know-how and understanding to let them operate confidently, effectively and independently in their personal, social and work life. For someone to be at least ‘functionally numerate’, they must have the requisite skills and knowledge to understand numerical information, solve problems and make the correct decisions in relevant contexts - see our essentials of numeracy diagram.
A problem-solving approach
For teachers, tutors or instructors, this may present a challenge – they cannot always know what skills and competencies their students will need as they move through life. It is essential to think of people becoming ‘functional’ in their numeracy rather than of there being a vital body of knowledge for discrete aspects of an individual’s life. Teaching numeracy (or teaching maths) therefore needs to be based on problem-solving, where learners can see the relevance of a concept to a range of contexts and know how to apply it in order to find solutions.
For teachers, tutors or instructors, this means helping learners to:
recognise situations and problems in which numeracy skills and understanding can be used
assess the numeracy skills required to address these situations or problems – selecting the right tools and knowledge is a core part of being functionally numerate
use and apply the appropriate numeracy skills to solve the problem or respond to the situation
interpret the outcomes or solutions in relation to the context
describe the results and conclusions.
Learning for life
Becoming – and remaining – sufficiently numerate to respond confidently to the unfolding demands of one’s personal, social and work life is an individual challenge for every learner. It varies according to:
the complexity of the situation or problem needing to be solved
its familiarity to the learner
the technical demand of the numeracy skills required
the independence and confidence of the learner in tackling the situation or problem
Mathematical thinking – pattern, logic, structure
Problems and situations needing solutions come in many forms, so in teaching numeracy teachers need to provide experiences relating to different types of problems and contexts. When teaching numeracy learners should be encouraged to:
organise and order information, deciding what is relevant and what is redundant
ask questions such as ‘what is this telling me?’ ‘would it make a difference if……..?
look for and spot patterns and relationships and generalise from these where appropriate
see the problem as a whole, even though the process of solving it may mean breaking it down into smaller and manageable pieces
recognise – and appreciate – that there is not necessarily one way of tacking a problem or presenting a solution and that there is not always a single right answer. Choices often have to be made and they will need to be justified using a logical or reasoned argument.
In this part of our website, we are aiming to support numeracy teachers, tutors and instructors in meeting the challenges outlined above. We will use the ‘You may be interested in………..’ sections below to provide additional support on various aspects of learning the teaching numeracy for all ages and settings.
These will draw upon research into pedagogically sound and effective approaches and will share materials, resources and findings to support you in helping your students to achieve – and maintain – the level of numeracy they need to function in their own lives.
How you can make a difference
We’re just getting started and we are very keen to work with those involved in the teaching numeracy to do what we can to help remove the barriers or obstacles to success. Please get in touch to:
tell us about key numeracy teaching resources and approaches that you think we should share and promote through the site
point us to important research about numeracy and weblinks it would be useful to add
suggest projects that we should be considering
let us know about public figures perpetuating the ‘I can’t do maths’ attitude