Numeracy

Posted on September 27, 2011

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CUrrently reading: Facing the CHallenge of Numeracy in Adult Education. Here is the link — well, not exactly, and I hope it doesn’t change. YOu see, it’s about numeracy, and there is no link on the caalusa.org page that gets directly to it. There’s no mention of numeracy on the front page, and this is not mentioned in the links to publications.
What’s up with that?

_Facing the Challenge_ is about “reform.” It’s got some red flag phrasess like “the differences between traditional math and ‘numeracy'”. However, unlike too many such explorations, we aren’t assumed to all have the same definition of “tradition,” and “reform” doesn’t mean “anything that’s different from — you know, what we all know is traditional” … the “traditional” is identified as emphasizing procedures; the “reform” is aimed at teaching understanding.
The paper starts with discussing the reforms of K-12 math, and states starkly what I had only suspected: “At present, elementary school teachers often receive little training in math education and can be certified in many states without demonstrating proficiency in math, or how to teach it.”
I suppose this would explain why, when I was a middle school classroom teacher, and there was talk of teachers having to pass skills tests, there was some panic in some of the ranks. And yes, it also answers the time-honored question: “What do they teach them in [insert previous educational setting here]?” It also discussed the challenges of finding assessments which measured understanding of concepts.
Here’s the phrase to grab from page 12: “Shifting to numeracy will require teaching more subject matter (for example, algebra, geometry, statistics, and the use of data at all levels of proficiency) and teaching it in more depth — moving beyond memorizing procedures to conceptual understanding and various aspects of applications and communication.”
Whew!! That’s a tall order.
Later on the paper mentions that yes, we probably have to figure out when to try to teach one thing really well, and when to try to do a light survey of lots of things… and it even suggests that the answer to that question is: IT DEPENDS. I reckon it depends a lot on an individual and an individual situation.

Posted in: math, numeracy