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Are you a Literacy Person? OR a Numeracy Person? Does it matter?

I’m a Numeracy consultant… So you probably think I’m a ‘Numeracy Person’? But, you may find it hard to believe that for many years of my teaching career, I wasn’t overly interested in Numeracy!

I thought I was a ‘Literacy’ person!

I didn’t hate Maths… I just didn’t think it was as important as Literacy in helping students succeed in life!

I hate to admit it, but when I was a Learning Support Coordinator, I used to prioritise helping students develop Literacy skills! Teaching students to read and write was my priority. If there was a bit of time leftover or personnel available… Then I would organise for support to be provided in mathematics.

So, something must have happened to make me change my focus from Literacy to Numeracy…?

Yes, it did. About 12 years ago, when I was deciding on a focus for my research masters at the University of Sydney, I was introduced to an article by Gersten and Chard, (1999) on how Number Sense was to Mathematics as Phonemic Awareness was to Reading. When I read that article I was hooked… I had a solution for the students who struggled in Mathematics.

I, like so many others, thought that some students had a ‘brain’ for Maths and others didn’t and really there wasn’t much that could be done for those that didn’t ‘get it’! I was wrong!

I learned that a student’s Numeracy levels are a greater predictor of their future success in life than their Literacy levels!

Numeracy levels impact health, wealth and job opportunities.

Numeracy is defined as having the willingness and confidence to use maths to solve everyday life problems

BUT what about students who hates maths and have no confidence in their ability to learn the content –let alone use it…?

Do you know people actually ‘hate’ Maths? And some people are even ‘phobic’ about the subject!

Unfortunately, the ineffective ways they were taught Maths at school have contributed to their strong negative reactions. And students need to be successful in Maths if they are going to develop numeracy and receive all the life benefits that brings…

It is not just disillusioned secondary students that need support… Unfortunately, students in their early years of primary school can give up and believe they are ‘no good at Maths’.

I always say to the primary school teachers I work with that it’s up to us to do everything we can to keep students engaged and positive about Maths. If students go to high school hating Maths it is going to be nearly impossible to turn them around… Once students are in a cycle of failure the gap generally only widens.

That’s the bad news but there is good news…

Numeracy research has discovered that early intervention in number sense can set a child up for success in Mathematics and that there are teaching strategies that work to help students 'get' maths.

So am I a Numeracy person or a Literacy person?

I'm both.

Does it even matter?

Yes, it matters.

They need equal priority.

We can’t afford to wait to improve numeracy until we’ve done all we can to improve literacy. It will be too late! Students at risk of mathematics failure need to be identified early and provided with appropriate levels of intervention. ALL students should be taught mathematics using effective research-based strategies that contribute to improved numeracy.

I've become a Numeracy advocate!

If you would like to join me in helping ALL students ‘like’ maths and develop Numeracy…? If you still believe there’s more to learn…? Then, explore some options below:

  • If you’re a leader of change at your primary school check out my offer to help you develop a numeracy improvement game plan for free.

  • If you’re a primary teacher or learning support teacher and want to know where to start – start with Number Sense.


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