Webinar 5 – April 29th

Webinar 5

What do I teach? Mathematics, Numeracy or Maths.

David Kaye

Learning Unlimited

Date:  29th April

Time: 18:00 (GMT)

In the proceedings of the first ALM conference held in 1994 there was an article entitled ‘Towards a Definition of Numeracy’ by Alexandra Withnall. Her final paragraph states:

At present, there is a tendency for policy-makers, practitioners and researchers alike to talk about ‘numeracy’ as though they shared a common understanding of its meaning. In examining some of the attempts to grapple with a definition already made, it has to be concluded that we do not, as yet, have an all-embracing operational definition with which to work. Nor, it seems, is it necessarily desirable to do so. Numeracy must remain a fluid term capable of re-conceptualisation according to the contexts in which it is used and by whom.

This is still the mission I am following, and I hope in joining this webinar you become part of this process of “re-conceptualisation” which continues 20 years on.

Since 1994 I have explored this in many ways. I found that many colleagues in ALM found themselves defining numeracy as part of a larger research aim. Others chose to define, or re-define mathematics in particular contexts of teaching and learning. I have collected together many of these statements, and they are all relevant to my question of “What do I teach?”

A thought experiment I hope to do during the webinar, which you can practice now (in private or public), is to read a policy or theoretical statement about mathematics and replace the word ‘mathematics’ with ‘numeracy’ – or vice versa – and evaluate how you feel about the changed statement.

I have considered not only how ‘Numeracy’ is defined but have compared those statements to descriptions of ‘Mathematics’, which initially many people do not consider needs defining at all.

In the UK recently there has been a tendency to use the term ‘numeracy’ less, especially with reference to adult education. However, it is not replaced by ‘mathematics’, but by ‘maths’. I am now questioning the use of this abbreviation. When do you use the word ‘maths’? Can it always be replaced by ‘mathematics’ and have the same meaning?

ALM Definitions


David KayeDavid has been part of ALM for 20 years including taking on the role of secretary for a number of years. He has worked in Further Education in the UK since the early 1990s and in more recent years has been a teacher educator for adult numeracy and mathematics. He currently works for the Institute of Education (University of London) on the post-compulsory PGCE (Mathematics with Numeracy) and for Learning Unlimited on a wide range of professional development projects. He takes a particular interest in the nature of mathematical knowledge and the history of mathematics.



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