The Welsh Government defines numeracy as the use of mathematical understanding in daily activities at school, home, work and within the community. National frameworks and qualifications have been developed to support learners in Wales improve their numerical skills and reasoning within and across school and college curricula. These often involve adopting contextualised and embedded approaches to learning numeracy in a range of academic and vocational contexts.
We all engage in a diverse range of formal and informal numeracy practices in and out of educational settings. Finding out about our own and our learners’ existing ‘mathematical behaviours’ and ‘funds of knowledge’ can provide meaningful links with individual and social everyday experiences of numeracy practices in and out of class.
We belong to many different, dynamic and often interconnected groups or ‘communities of practice’ such as family, friendship and peer groups; subject, tutor, work or social groups. There will be similarities and differences between numeracy practices and agreed ways of ‘doing’ mathematics and numeracy within these different groups and settings, across time and cultures (e.g. purposes, tools, methods, language, values, etc.). ‘Taken for granted’ ways of doing things need to be made explicit so that learners, parents/carers and colleagues can compare and contrast how numeracy practices are used differently and most appropriately in diverse contexts.
Being able to apply mathematics knowledge that has been learned in a decontextualised way to other academic, vocational or everyday contexts (or vice versa) is not always straightforward or unproblematic. Transfer of formal and informal skills and understanding can be supported by recognising similarities and differences in numeracy practices. Using authentic situations that are meaningful, purposeful and linked to learner contexts also helps. ‘Generative’, ‘interpretative’ and ‘decision’ situations offer an approach to developing ‘numeracy in-action’ using increasingly complex scenarios linked to ‘everyday’ numeracy practices.
The National Support Programme (NSP) offers additional, specialist tailored support to teachers, headteachers and learning and teaching assistants to help implement the National Literacy and Numeracy Framework (LNF) in Wales. A range of support and guidance is available through four incremental and outcome-related phases.
Improving standards in numeracy in Wales involves a whole-institutional approach which addresses the needs of learners, staff and the wider community. A strategic approach which includes a ‘futures’ perspective as well as broad medium-term strategies and detailed short-term action planning is required. Developing inclusive, collaborative and dynamic professional learning communities (PLCs) focussed on improving standards of numeracy for the whole learning community requires ongoing and targeted practitioner development and training opportunities.