Numeracy is the knowledge, skills, behaviours and dispositions that students need in order to use mathematics in a wide range of situations. It involves recognising and understanding the role of mathematics in the world and having the dispositions and capacities to use mathematical knowledge and skills purposefully.
(Literacy and numeracy strategy version 2).
Why numeracy is important
A child's first years are a time of rapid learning and development. Babies and toddlers can recognise number, patterns, and shapes. They use maths concepts to make sense of their world and connect these concepts with their environment and everyday activities. For example, when playing, children may sort or choose toys according to size, shape, weight or colour.
While much of the teaching of concepts and skills to support numeracy happens in the mathematics learning area, it is strengthened as students take part in activities that connect their learning in the mathematics classroom within the context of other curriculum areas.
As they move through their years of schooling, students are exposed to mathematical:
- problem solving
These capabilities allow students to respond to familiar and unfamiliar situations by employing mathematics to make informed decisions and solve problems efficiently (VCAA, 2017).
There is also evidence that other areas of development, such as resilience and perseverance, support achievement in numeracy.
Mathematics gives students access to important mathematical ideas, knowledge and skills. Numeracy connects this learning with their personal and work lives.
Numeracy has an increasingly important role in enabling and sustaining cultural, social, economic and technological advances.
For an overview of numeracy development see mapping the numeracy focus areas. Resources in the guide are organised by levels:
Numeracy and the proficiencies
The Victorian Curriculum: Mathematics identifies a mutual relationship between learning in mathematics and numeracy. This relationship is shown in learning environments through the proficiencies:
Refers to building a robust knowledge of adaptable and transferable mathematical concepts and structures. Students make connections between related concepts and progressively apply the familiar to develop new ideas. They develop an understanding of the relationship between the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of mathematics.
Describes the development of skills in choosing appropriate procedures, carrying out procedures flexibly, accurately, efficiently and appropriately, and recalling factual knowledge and concepts readily.
The ability of students to make choices, interpret, formulate, model and investigate problem situations, select and use technological functions and communicate solutions effectively.
Refers to students developing an increasingly sophisticated capacity for logical, statistical and probabilistic thinking and actions, such as conjecturing, hypothesising, analysing, proving, evaluating, explaining, inferring, justifying, refuting, abstracting and generalising.
For more information about the proficiencies see:
Human Capital Working Group, Council of Australian Government. (2018).
National Numeracy Review Report. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.
Jonas, N. (2018). Numeracy practices and numeracy skills among adults. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Shomos, A., & Forbes, M. (2014). Literacy and Numeracy Skills and Labour Market Outcomes in Australia. Canberra: Productivity Commision Staff working paper.