chapter  1
6 Pages

What is numeracy?

We are frequently told by politicians and the media that numeracy is important. Few of us are likely to deny this. But what is numeracy? And what makes it so important?

The word ‘numeracy’ sounds similar to ‘number’, highlighting the central role which number plays. But the mathematical content of numeracy is much wider and embraces number, algebra, data handling, measures and even moves into shape and space. While these words may bring connotations of dull textbook mathematics, ‘numeracy’ is decidedly more active. An influential report into mathematics stated that numeracy has two essential attributes:

The first of these is an ‘at-homeness’ with numbers and an ability to make use of mathematical skills which enables an individual to cope with the practical mathematical demands of his everyday life. The second is an ability to have some appreciation and understanding of information which is presented in mathem­ atical terms, for instance in graphs, charts or tables or by reference to percentage increase or decrease.