Eric.ed.gov – What Can Other Areas Teach Us about Numeracy?

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Education professionals, regardless of their specialist area, are broadly aware of the importance of numeracy. Internationally, definitions of numeracy (known elsewhere as mathematical literacy or quantitative reasoning), describe “an individual’s capacity to formulate, employ and interpret mathematics in a variety of contexts… reasoning mathematically and using mathematical concepts, procedures, facts, and tools to describe, explain and predict phenomena… recognising the role that mathematics plays in the world and to make the well-founded judgements and decisions needed by constructive, engaged and reflective citizens.” (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, 2014, p. 37), or more locally, numeracy is “the knowledge and skills to use mathematics confidently across all learning areas at school and in their lives more broadly… It involves students recognising and understanding the role of mathematics in the world and having the dispositions and capacities to use mathematical knowledge and skills purposefully” (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA], 2012, p. 25). Descriptions such as “incorporating the use of mathematics to meet the demands of day-to-day life” roll off the tongue of many a teacher, but their working understanding of what numeracy is may be limited to “counting and measuring” or “maths”, or more optimistically “problem solving with numbers” or “the ability to use maths in real-world scenarios”. Aspects of numeracy such as logical reasoning, spatial thinking and visual representation are not at the forefront of teachers’ perception of what numeracy is, perhaps due to the historical acceptance of arithmetic skills being the limit of the mathematical knowledge required for everyday routines (Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers [AAMT], 1998), and the current regime of NAPLAN may also be influencing what numeracy is understood to be and what can be done to teach students about it (Hogan, 2012). The follow-on effect of this is these non-arithmetic areas may not be accessed by students in classrooms. It could be argued that providing teachers with a range of numeracy-based discipline-specific resources would better enable them to integrate the use of numeracy skills within their subject as we have seen in the case of literacy–but this would risk numeracy becoming even more of a curriculum add-on than it already is for many teachers. If the focus instead is directed towards developing teachers’ awareness and confidence of what numeracy is, perhaps emphasising and incorporating activities that will build students’ fluency, strategies and confidence in using mathematical knowledge, skills and ideas in the context of every day living would be more practical and achievable. Here, Elizabeth Ferme, describes a research project that she has embarked upon that hopes to identify how best to work with teachers to enhance student numeracy outcomes.

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Troels Gannerup Christensen

Jeg er ansat som adjunkt hos Læreruddannelsen i Jelling, hvor jeg underviser i matematik, specialiseringsmodulet teknologiforståelse, praktik m.m. Jeg har tidligere været ansat som pædagogisk konsulent i matematik og tysk hos UCL ved Center for Undervisningsmidler (CFU) i Vejle og lærer i udskolingen (7.-9. klasse) på Lyshøjskolen i Kolding. Jeg er ejer af og driver bl.a. hjemmesiderne www.lærklokken.dk og www.iundervisning.dk, ggbkursus.dk og er tidligere fagredaktør på matematik på emu.dk. Jeg går ind for, at læring skal være let tilgængelig og i størst mulig omfang gratis at benytte.

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