Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Teaching Numeracy - What is Numeracy?

I hope you're ready to dive right into this book study with me! Let's start by defining what numeracy is. The book by Margie Pearse does a great job at illustrating exactly what numeracy is and why it is so important!

Numeracy is a term that was introduced more than two decades ago in the UK. Since this term's introduction, the United States has not made numeracy a goal in the educational landscape, focusing instead on literacy instruction. The interesting thing here, though, is that many of the principles of a highly-literate society also lend themselves to developing highly-numerate individuals. It should not, then, be a discussion of "this or that." Rather, educational policy-makers should see that one lends itself to the other and they should strive to develop a closely-tied relationship between both literacy and numeracy.

The UK Department for Education and Skills defines numeracy as:

  • Numeracy is a proficiency developed mainly in mathematics but also in other subjects. It is more than the ability to do basic arithmetic.
  • Numeracy develops confidence and competence with numbers and measurement; it requires understanding of the number system, a number sense.
  • Numeracy demands understanding the way in which data are gathered by analyzing and evaluating, as presented in graphs, diagrams, charts and tables.
  • Teachers of numeracy develop critical thinking and foster behaviors that enable students to make sense of numerical information in their world. 
  • Numeracy is about applying mathematical concepts in sophisticated settings.
  • Numeracy is about making sense of numbers and understanding the effect numbers have on the world around us.
Now, when I read this, I couldn't help but think that this really defines everything that I WISH my math instruction was providing. That is my goal! I want for students to be able to apply mathematical concepts in a sophisticated way and I want for them to be able to think about and analyze their problems and solutions. Ok...so now what?!

It turns out that I am not the only person who finds this to be incredible valuable. In Teaching Numeracy, the author makes some startling points about the career options of students who are numerate and graduates who are not numerate. IT IS SCARY! 

"Evidence shows that poor numeracy skills 
are a greater impediment to life chances than poor literacy 
skills and by raising standards of numeracy, 
we will be improving the career prospects of our pupils."

Now, if that doesn't make you want to go out and rev up your math instruction, I don't know what will! I'm excited to read further into this book because it connects the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice with techniques that you can use in your classroom tomorrow to improve numeracy in your students!

Check back on Thursday for a report on Habit 1: Monitor and Repair Understanding

Be sure to leave a comment below! Are you experiencing the same struggles with numeracy? Has something been successful for you in improving numeracy? Do you find numeracy to be an important instructional focus? Let's chat!


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