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What is Numeracy?

nu·​mer·​acy | \ ˈn(y)üm-rə-sē

Latin numerus number + English -acy (as in literacy)


Sometimes referred to as Mathematical Literacy, the OECD defines Numeracy as

" individuals capacity to identify and understand the role that mathematics plays in the world, to make well-founded judgements and to use and engage with mathematics in ways that meet the needs of that individual's life as a constructive, concerned and reflective citizen."

Numeracy is more than just mathematics.

Numeracy is not mathematics. It is something different. Instead of diving deeper into the formal and abstract world of mathematics, learning more mathematics, and become more fluent with mathematics, numeracy fosters the understanding and application of our mathematical knowledge in a quantitative sense.

Unlike the field of mathematics, which continues to expand, the mathematics needed by a numerate individual is relatively finite.

That is, numeracy isn’t about being able to flexibly use all of mathematics to deal with “life’s diverse contexts and situations”, but rather to flexibly draw on that subset of mathematics that is most useful in dealing with these “diverse contexts and situations”.

(Peter Liljedahl, 2013, here)

A numerate individual has the capacity to use mathematics to make sense of important social, scientific issues, both current and historical, local and global, and therefore enact change within their own community and broader contexts.