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.

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