Numeracy across the curriculum research project
Being numerate involves more than mastering basic mathematics. Numeracy involves connecting the mathematics that students learn at school with the out-of-school situations that require the skills of problem solving, critical judgement, and sense-making related to applied contexts.
The aim of this project was to highlight the relevance of numeracy skills within eight other subjects, or learning areas in the Victorian curriculum, namely:
- Visual Arts
- Health and Physical Education
- Design and Technologies
The project involved developing a set of activities (two per learning area) to help specialist teachers embed numeracy into their classrooms. For each learning area, background information was provided about the importance of numeracy, and numeracy links were discussed.
The project was completed in two phases. In Phase 1, activities were developed for the first four learning areas. In Phase 2, activities were developed for the second four learning areas.
We based our research on the definition of numeracy provided by the Victorian Department of Education (2018):
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. (p. 8)
We drew upon the conceptual framework of Goos et al. (2014; also discussed in Goos et al., 2019). In this framework, numeracy is conceptualised as comprising four elements and an orientation:
- Element 1: Attention to real-life contexts (citizenship, work, and personal and social life)
- Element 2: Application of mathematical knowledge (problem solving, estimation, concepts, and skills)
- Element 3: Use of tools (representational, physical, and digital)
- Element 4: The promotion of positive dispositions towards the use of mathematics to solve problems encountered in day-to-day life (confidence, flexibility, initiative, and risk)
- Orientation: A critical orientation to interpreting mathematical results and making evidence-based judgements
Our methodology was two-fold.
First, for each learning area, we conducted a review of research literature published by Australian experts to ensure relevance to the Victorian context. This step included:
- literature review of past research in relation to numeracy within that learning area
- analysis of available strategies that are applicable to the given learning area
- investigation of how numeracy learning and learning area outcomes are produced
The results from this review then led to the development of a general overview of numeracy in each learning area. The overviews provided teachers with a comprehensive background for understanding current knowledge of numeracy in their learning area and highlighted the significance of how numeracy can be used to improve student learning outcomes.
Secondly, we applied a co-design approach (Kelly et al., 2008) to develop examples of activities. Through co-design, we reviewed the research bases to create, develop, and deliver the examples of activities for each learning area.
Department of Education and Training. (2018). Literacy and numeracy strategy, Phase 2: Achieving excellence and equity in literacy and numeracy. Author.
Goos, M., Geiger, V., & Dole, S. (2014). Transforming professional practice in numeracy teaching. In Y. Li, E. Silver, & S. Li (Eds.),Transforming mathematics instruction: Multiple approaches and practices (pp. 81–102). Springer.
Goos, M., Geiger, V., Dole, S., Forgasz, H., & Bennison, A. (2019). Numeracy across the curriculum: Research-based strategies for enhancing teaching and learning. Allen & Unwin.
Kelly, A. E., Lesh, R. A., & Baek, J. Y. (Eds.). (2008). Handbook of design research methods in education: Innovations in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics learning and teaching. Routledge.
The activities developed during this project are available on the Victorian Department of Education website, under the Numeracy across the curriculum section.
The activities are described in terms of subject-specific learning intentions and content descriptors. The numeracy content and skills are highlighted and explained, with particular focus on how the numeracy links enhance the learning area’s specific concepts.