Under the hood: Learning progressions for adult numeracy

Num Progs

The Learning Progressions for Adult Numeracy are part two of the Learning Progressions framework. We use the numeracy progressions to help us understand how to embed numeracy. Part one is the Literacy Progressions discussed in the last section.

Where does it come from?

The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC).

What’s it for?

The numeracy progressions are

  • A guide to identifying the next numeracy steps for adult learners.

As we saw with literacy in the last section, the Numeracy Progressions provide a framework that shows what adult learners know and can do at successive points as they develop their expertise in numeracy learning.

The progressions describe what is learned in the order that it is usually learned. And just as we can with the Literacy Progressions, we can use the Numeracy Progressions to:

  • Identify the numeracy-related demands of a specific workplace, community, or personal tasks and texts.
  • Gain a basic picture of an adult learner’s current skills, strategies and knowledge in numeracy.
  • Decide on a sequence for teaching and learning specific numeracy skills.

What is it?

Like the Literacy Progressions, the Numeracy Progressions are best understood visually as three grids. These grids are the numeracy strands. There is one for number, one for statistics, and another for measurement.

Together these three strands are the framework we use for numeracy. Here is the number strand.


The Number strand has six columns or progressions. In the strand above, the first column is the Additive Strategies Progression. We’ll talk about the details later, but for now all you need to know is that this includes addition and subtraction. And that there are six koru or steps going down from top to bottom.

Something else that’s good to know at this stage is that this strand has three strategies progressions on the right-hand side. And then you can see three other progressions on the left in grey. These grey ones are knowledge progressions.

This means that the koru or steps on the right includes all the things you need to know, in order to do all the things on the left. So the knowledge needs to come first.

Here’s the strand that includes shapes, space, and measurement.


As with the literacy strands we showed you before, we’ve taken out the details. All you need for now is to have an idea on how the framework is put together.

Module 3 is where we will fill in the details and show you how to work with it to work out the numeracy demands of your teaching or training.

To sum up, The Learning Progressions for Adult Numeracy are organised into three strands:

  • Make Sense of Number to Solve Problems
  • Reason Statistically
  • Measure and Interpret Shape and Space

As with literacy, each strand contains a group of progressions. Each progression highlights a particular area of knowledge or learning within a strand, for example, measurement.

And as before, each step or koru in a progression represents a development step as learners strengthen or build their expertise.

How is it relevant?

Everything that we said before about the Literacy Progressions applies here. Except the focus is on numeracy. The underlying idea is that the numeracy progressions can help you teach better.

Our focus in this course, involves you using the numeracy progressions to do the following.

  • Work out the numeracy demands of your teaching (Module 3 – Demands).
  • Design strategies for embedding numeracy into your programme (Module 4).
  • Assess and understand your learners’ numeracy needs better (Module 5 – Before).
  • Plan how to embed numeracy into teaching and activities (Module 6 – Teaching).
  • Assess learner numeracy progress (Module 7 – After).

What does it mean for me?

Once you have a working knowledge of the Learning Progressions you’ll be able to focus on better teaching by understanding the demands of your training, the strengths and needs of your learners, and what you need to do to move your learners on to the next step.

As with literacy there are implications for you relating to assessment. If you use the Literacy and Numeracy for Adults Assessment Tool (LNAAT), you’ll need to do a numeracy assessment as well.

This one also generates a detailed report for each learner showing key numeracy strengths and needs. It looks like this.


Make sure that you have access to these reports. In an ideal world, you should have electronic access to the tool itself. But if you don’t, then ask your tool admin person to email them to you.

We’ll show you how to make sense of the information later. This will be a key part of Module 5 when we cover the kinds of diagnostic tools and processes you can use to be a better, more informed educator.

Author: Graeme Smith

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

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