On Friday, I went to my placement school (Burlington Central P.S.) for my second observation day, which happened to be a PD session. The first part of the session was on Numeracy.
The 1st thing we were asked to do was define “numeracy”. We were given a pile of “math” problems and asked to classify which ones were “math” problems and which ones were “numeracy” problems. I participated in this activity with a group of seasoned high school teachers and was relieved to find out that I wasn’t the only one who did not quite understand what “numeracy” is.
Numeracy is equivalent to literacy. Literacy is considered an essential skill in our society and illiteracy has a stigma associated with it. As educators, we feel a major need to eradicate illiteracy. However, the same enthusiasm is not extended to numeracy. Numeracy refers to an individual's ability to understand and use mathematical information at school, at work, and in everyday life; for example, handling money and budgets, using measurements for cooking, or reading a map.
We may take numeracy for granted, however the statistics are shocking! A study in 2003 found that 50% of high school graduates were not numerate! They measured at Level 1 and Level 2 – Level 3 numeracy is considered a level at which an individual can function in Canadian society! According to HRDC Canada,
“In 2003, roughly 45% of Canadians aged 16 years and older attained numeracy scores at or above Level 3. This means that over half of adult Canadians did not demonstrate levels of mathematical skills and knowledge associated with functioning well in Canadian society. The proportion who achieved Level 2 numeracy (30%) was the same as the proportion who achieved Level 3 (30%). The proportion with Level 1 was only slightly lower (26%).”
WOW – what a shocking statistic! Can you imagine if these numbers applied to literacy in Canada? Everyone would be questioning the foundations of the education system! As teacher candidates, we must be prepared to teach numeracy in our courses, no matter what the subject matter is.
As a challenge to my fellow teacher candidates – especially those of you NOT in math or science – how can you incorporate numeracy (basic, functional math skills) into your lessons? Remember, numeracy skills are math skills at a Grade 8 or 9 level.
Have a look at the video clip below. A real life example of why basic numeracy is so important! Warning – you will need patience to get through the entire clip!!