How will your development in numeracy impact your future?
Numeracy is a life skill. Being numerate means more than arithmetic. It looks less at calculations and more on how one applies an understanding of numbers in real life. Numeracy is an appreciation of common sense with a depth of reasoning and critical thinking around how numbers change our world.
Being numerate means understanding how to navigate confidently and competently through the world with a practical sense of how and why numbers affect you. A person with good numeracy skills can fluently work numbers beyond the classroom to more sophisticated settings.
According to the National Council of Education and the Disciplines (NCED, 2003), citizens who are highly numerate will be better equipped to understand the many forces that shape their lives. Numeracy skills are socially distributed. That is, people who are regarded as insufficiently numerate are predominantly working class and are disproportionately female. There is a strong correlation between strong numeracy and better jobs, higher wages, and the ability to make more informed high impact decisions. In fact, having low numeracy skills is a stronger predictor to future success or failure than having low literacy skills.
Now that we, as educators, understand the implications of numeracy development, what can we do to make sure all of our students find success in becoming more numerate? Let’s begin by creating a numeracy-rich learning environment where children are exposed to numbers across the curriculum, where they have plenty of opportunities to explore and discover good number sense.
Building conceptual connections is at the heart of numeracy, teaching the reasoning beyond the “what” of math to the “why” the math makes sense. Numeracy begins with learning HOW to think, not just WHAT to think.
Secondly, we need to make learning math more approachable, relevant, and fun. When children find joy in something, they want to keep doing it. That is how we begin the spiraling upward towards deeper, more conceptual numerate thinking. No longer will students find it okay to “just not get math.” Presenting more numeracy-rich lessons in every subject will provide the necessary shift in mindset from it being “cute” to not be good at math to it being vital for success in life.