Numeracy For ESOL Teachers: You Might Not Even Realise You’re Doing It

numeracy for esol teachers

This might seem like a challenge. But it’s not. The real challenge is to think about what ESOL teachers already do through a  different lens.

If you teach English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) or have Non-English Speaking Background (NESB) learners you might be surprised to realise that you are possibly already embedding numeracy into your teaching.

Here are some examples in different ESOL-specific contexts:

Everyday life in NZ

In an “Everyday life in NZ” or similar ESOL course, you might discuss and teach any of the following:

  • Telling the time including doing time calculations.
  • Reading a bus timetable or schedule of some kind. This can also include calculations if you have to work out when you will arrive at a destination.
  • Giving, receiving and following directions.
  • Reading maps; navigation tasks are all numeracy.

Even if you don’t deal with these, there are lots of tasks relating to time, space, and location that are essential for basic survival ESOL teaching.

Workplace literacy and ESOL

In a workplace ESOL environment, it’s even easier to make the connection to numeracy. Many workplaces require staff to undertake tasks involving measurement or do calculations. If you are a workplace ESOL tutor, you’ll already be aware of the numeracy demands. Here are some examples:

  • Understanding and working with weights and measures, The context here might include weighing flour using grams and kilograms on a metric scale with up to three decimal places, for example.
  • Understanding personal benchmarks for numeracy. This might include recognising key measurements or weights for specific purposes, e.g. knowing what 20kg “feels like”.
  • Using partitioning strategies for doing mental calculations. Here a worker might need to work out how many boxes are stacked on a pallet in a warehouse. Counting all the boxes is less efficient than understanding basic area and volume.

Academic ESOL

In an academic preparation course, you might require your learners to use numeracy skills for any of these:

  • Interpreting data in a graph or table and then writing this down in words. The demands here might relate to achieving an IELTS band 5 for writing with an attached set of descriptors, for example.
  • Conducting an informal research project which involves gathering data and presenting it back in some way.

Why is this relevant?

If you teach ESOL as part of TEC funded workplace literacy or as part of SAC 1 and 2 funded training, you are now required to gain the NCALNE (Voc) qualification. Also, if you teach ESOL as part of TEC funded ILN-targeted ESOL you may also find yourself under pressure to upskill in the same way.

Connection to the NCALNE (Voc) training

If you need to complete the NCALNE (Voc) qualification you will need to provide evidence that you have analysed the literacy and numeracy demands of your training. We’re working on an NCALNE (Voc) – ESOL option specifically to help with this. There’s a preliminary Q & A page here.

Knowing the demands

If you are an ESOL teacher, you might not think that your course has any numeracy demands. If you can’t provide evidence of any numeracy demands your assessor will not be able to sign off on particular aspects of the NCALNE (Voc). You won’t be able to pass in other words.

However, if you can take a fresh look at your work in the light of the examples above, you might find that, yes… actually, there are numeracy demands. And yes, you do embed numeracy.

Do you have any other examples of numeracy teaching occurring naturally within ESOL contexts? I’d love to hear about them. Please let me know in the comments.

Why is my WiFi broken? I’m on ultra fast fibre broadband…! Part 1: WTF-Fi

angry faces coz no wifi

Normally, I get grumpy when I have computer problems. Lately, though… I’m getting close to becoming a danger to others (not to mention certain objects in my house).

The problem is my WiFi. It sucks. I now refer to it as the WTF-Fi

For the record, I’m with Spark. But I don’t think it matters as it’s what they call an end user problem.

In other words, I don’t have a fibre problem, I have a problem with the connections between my devices and the router. Specifically, something to do with the speed at which they connect or don’t connect and/or the encryption or [insert other technical terminology that no one understands]…

Not so long ago we had a VDSL connection. It was really fast considering it used the old copper line. Far superior to the ADSL connection before it.

WiFi worked perfectly.

Now the WiFi works insanely fast. When it actually works. Which is only some of the time.

These days, I reset the router about two or three times in a day. I have a special step ladder set up permanently so I can climb up to the little shelf in the garage.

Now… I understand your smirking comments about “first world problems, bro” and shouldn’t the kids be outside playing with pocket knives and climbing trees instead of complaining that they can’t watch YouTube.

I get all that.

However, I run my business from home. We shop online. We bank online. We homeschool. We stay in touch with family and friends online. The internet is now as important as utilities like electricity and running water.

And I’m not the only one having issues. There are plenty of other people in NZ and around the world having weird and mysterious WiFi issues. Most of them blame their ISP.

I blame my ISP too. Even though “technically” it’s not their fault.

Here’s the thing I learned today:

  • No one really understands what’s going on with the new Wifi because it’s not like the old WiFi.

The old WiFi on my really great VDSL connection was an analog product. People have been working with analog WiFi for years. Perhaps 20 or 30 years, I don’t know. Whatever it is, it’s a long time in internet time.

  • The new WiFi – the WTF-Fi – is a purely digital product.

It’s totally new. It works and responds differently. And four different technicians will give four different (usually useless or temporary) solutions.

The new digital WiFi hates my devices. But it loves cables. I have a cable to my office direct from my router. It has an Apple Thunderbolt adapter on the end.

Here’s the speed test when it’s cabled. It’s eye-wateringly fast.

Screenshot 2015-11-05 20.42.48

The speed test is tapped out… But the flip side is that I’ve restarted my router three times today.

And my wife wanted to kill me because she “just wanted to do the schoolwork with the children”.

She wants to go back to the old Wi-Fi. The one that worked.

But after an 80 minute conversation with the Spark tech on the phone I finally made him tell me what I always suspected. It’s a one-way trip. You can’t just switch back to the good ol’ VDSL.

Digital baby… and here to stay.

It’s not fixed. And I’m still steaming. I wasted another day of work today… But the last flicker of optimism hasn’t been existinguished just yet.

I’ll keep you posted.

TEC Literacy and Numeracy Implementation Strategy 2015 – 2019

Screenshot 2015-11-05 11.04.03

The TEC released the latest version of their literacy and numeracy strategy the other day. I’ve pasted in the info and links from their website below. From my side, the following things stand out:

  1. The TEC remains committed to strengthening the literacy and numeracy skills of New Zealanders.
  2. The NCALNE (Voc) remains the baseline qualification for foundation tutors working in this space.
  3. We might see the development of a cross-government national publicity campaign to reduce stigma around low literacy and numeracy skills, and demystify  and promote potential solutions to improving personal literacy and numeracy.


Literacy and Numeracy Implementation Strategy 2015–2019

The Tertiary Education Commission has published its Literacy and Numeracy Implementation Strategy 2015–2019.

The Strategy will guide our work in adult literacy and numeracy. It sets out how we will engage with the tertiary sector, with employers and across government from 2015 to 2019 to lift literacy and numeracy skills.

The Strategy has been developed following consultation with stakeholders in the tertiary sector and with employers.