Teach better – What is numeracy?


(ii) Numeracy

This next definition comes from the PIIAC study as well.

What’s the definition?

Numeracy is the ability to use, interpret and communicate mathematical information and ideas in order to engage in and manage the mathematical demands of a range of situations (p.4).

Where does this definition come from?

Ministry of Education and Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (2016). Skills and Education: Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC). Wellington: Ministry of Education and Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.

What are some key features?


  • Quantity
  • Dimension and shapes
  • Patterns
  • Data and chance
  • Visual displays.

How is this definition relevant to my teaching context?

As with the definition for literacy, this one is important because it allows us to talk about our learners, our country and other countries when it comes to numeracy.

Also, it has a practical focus on using maths for a purpose. As with literacy, numeracy shouldn’t be mindless repetition and practice. It should be about solving problems that have meaning in the context of every life and work.

This is relevant to your teaching because this isn’t about the maths that you, or your learners, got at high school. This is about how to use maths ideas and knowledge to do stuff that you need to do.

The kinds of situations that are relevant to your learners and your teaching should provide you with the kinds of maths and numeracy that you need to do. But more on that in the next definition.


Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

3 thoughts

    1. Hi Dennis. Thanks for that. I’m sure the study last year has really helped. But I’m also working on the new NZCALNE content. These are the first chunks of content. I’ve been involved with the development of the new unit standards so I’ve been thinking about the new delivery material for a long time. It’s taken until now to get to writing the content though. The new standards aren’t perfect but it’s a lot more stripped down than the old 21204. And what I couldn’t change to my liking in the new standards I can bend around the new course structure. I appreciate the feedback… I’d like to widen the audience. We’ve been lacking clarity on this stuff since we started so hopefully this year is when it all comes into focus. Fingers crossed…! Thanks and regards, G

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