Saturday, December 21, 2013

Creating and Sustaining a Culture of Numeracy

Anyone that knows me knows that I struggled in virtually every single math class I have ever taken in both public and post-secondary schools. As a matter a fact, its probably the reason why I scored so poorly on my GRE and has put a major pause on my attempt to obtain a PhD, but I digress. So its no wonder why I am both passionate and dedicated to not only reform traditional schooling but in particular math education in this country. Its probably safe to say that I am not alone in my disdain for solving binomials or finding the area of a triangle, but its also frustrating as a grown man that many of the math skills that I use and have used into adulthood have absolutely nothing with what I was taught in school. In this effort this post is dedicated to not focusing on problems or even revisiting national debates on whether Algebra I is the "gold standard" for determining whether or not students can successfully matriculate onto post secondary studies, as I have mentioned in my previous post, but rather on a declaration promoting our schools focus on promoting a culture of numeracy. We defined numeracy as "the capacity to bridge the gap between ‘mathematics’ and ‘the real world’, to use in-school mathematics out-of-school” and consider people to be more or less numerate based on “how well they choose and use the mathematical skills they have in the service of things other than mathematics” (Willis 1998, p.37) To this end, we developed a set of seven Numeracy Principles that schools and educators can begin to adopt so that we create more informed and empowered young people in this world and bring an end to useless content that many of us will never use on a day-to-day basis: 
  • Numeracy is everybody’s business and pervades a school’s culture.
  • All students can and must develop numeracy skills and dispositions and become powerfully numerate.
  • Numeracy cannot be developed solely by learning mathematical procedures; these must be embedded in guided, open quests, explorations, and investigations.
  • Numeracy connotes a familiarity and confidence with notions of change, chance, quantity, shape, and dimension.
  • Real-world relevance and connections—both cross-discipline and within mathematics— are the cornerstones to developing numeracy skills.
  • Numeracy requires effective communication, both written and oral.                                         
  • Numeracy, along with literacy, is a co-equal building block of human intellectual prowess.

Just as literacy is the foundation in which all other reading and writing skills will begin to flourish and grow, we believe that numeracy provides the very foundation in which all other math constructs can rest upon and create a more informed and empowered youth. As other organizations such as the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation, are working towards a more just and equitable platform in which math instruction can take place: the question ultimately becomes: How do we get our kids to think of themselves as mathematicians and simply not doing, math like a hopeless drone. 

1 comment:

  1. From my experiences, student are taught to fear mathematical equations & numbers. Not directly taught, but indirectly by our constant pursuit of "the right answer". They do not want to explore other solutions for solving problems, they want the shortcut version to the right answer. Students need to be taught that the destination is not as important as the journey. Students need to know that failing is only a part of learning. My students at the beginning of the year told me they hated math. Now, they cannot wait to come to math class. Allowing them to take control and ownership of their learning has tipped the scales of learning math in their favor. We discuss different ways to solve problems, students work together to help one another, we are a learning environment. Failure is not an option because we are stronger working together then we are apart. I believe that more people would not shutter at the mention of mathematics if we were taught that it is okay to fail and try again. My students are the mathematicians & scientists of the future. Why would they want to venture into one of these fields if they do not embrace it now?