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Numeracy and Mathematical Literacy

June 17, 2011

“Mathematicians, who are only mathematicians, have exact minds, provided all things are explained to them by means of definitions and axioms; otherwise they are inaccurate and insufferable, for they are only right when the principles are quite clear” ~ Blaise Pascal

On May 10, 2011, I hosted an Elluminate session titled “Numeracy / Mathematical Literacy – What is it and why is it important in the 21st Century.” This session was targeted at British Columbia independent schools in conjunction with the BC Association of Mathematics Teachers (@BCAMT) Independent Schools Representative Chris Stroud (@stroudwpg). The purpose of this session was three-fold:

  1. We wanted to create a means to connect independent school mathematics teachers across the province.
  2. Provide some starting points for schools to discuss numeracy / mathematical literacy in the context of their school.
  3. Determine if there was a desire to continue to connect on-line to discuss issues in mathematics.

As with many Elluminate sessions, this event took the form of a presentation with lots of back channel discussion in the chat window. If you choose to watch the session I think you will find the chat very interesting as I did. (Note: We also tried to use Twitter but there was limited success.)

A few of the key items you can check out in the recorded session:

  1. Participants were asked to provide the reasons why people study mathematics and entered their thoughts in the chat window.
  2. Definition of Numeracy and Mathematical Literacy (see Being Numerate post for Definitions) were presented. Educators were asked which definition speaks to them and their school and state reasons in the chat window.
  3. Some of the reasons  to move beyond procedural mathematics skills and develop a more numerate approach to mathematics was discussed.
  4. The links between the BC provincial mathematics curriculum and numeracy were discussed with specific reference to the main goals of mathematics education  including:
  • using mathematics confidently to solve problems
  • using mathematics to better understand the world around us
  • communicating and reasoning mathematically
  • appreciating and valuing mathematics
  • making connections between mathematics and its application
  • committing themselves to lifelong learning becoming mathematically literate and using mathematics to participate in, and contribute to, society

Students who have met these goals will:

  • gain an understanding and appreciation of the contributions of mathematics as a science, philosophy, and art
  • be able to use mathematics to make and justify decisions about the world around us
  • exhibit a positive attitude toward mathematics
  • engage and persevere in mathematical tasks and projects
  • contribute to mathematical discussions
  • take risks in performing mathematical tasks
  • exhibit curiosity

The session ended with participants asked to consider the following questions:

  1. Is our school focused on numeracy?
  2. Is our school helping students use the tools or just filling the toolbox
  3. Is numeracy being addressed across the curriculum?
  4. Would our school like to increase our focus on numeracy?
  5. How can our school increase our focus on numeracy?
  6. What role can parents, students, and other staff members play in supporting numeracy?

On a side note, I learned a few things about using Elluminate which may be of use if people decide to set up their own Elluminate rooms (see Elluminating):

  • The actual session does not start until about 30 minutes in as it can not be edited without downloading. It is best to not start the recording until the presentation starts although there are times when you miss some of the best discussion doing this. Careful consideration should be made of the best time to record.
  • When you give everyone moderator access issues can arise as is evident with the slides being changed in the presentation.
  • Do not assume that everyone can access from their school as there may be firewall issues. Encourage people to connect well before.
  • It is hard to maintain back channel chats on Twitter and to monitor the chat window. I would recommend using only the chat window unless you have someone helping you facilitate.
One Comment leave one →
  1. June 29, 2011 6:43 am

    Excellent resource – I’m going to read this frequently as I work to establish a local numeracy program. Thanks, Richard!

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