The predominance of poor numeracy among children is by no means a new phenomenon
The predominance of poor numeracy among children is by no means a new phenomenon. In fact this is corroborated by the following comments made in 1925 by the Board of Education: “Accuracy in the manipulation of figures does not reach the same standard which was reached 20 years ago. Echoing today’s business leaders and educationalists, they went on to lament the impact of poor math ability on productivity at work:” Some employers express surprise and concern at the inability of young persons to perform simple numerical operations involved in business.”
Given that numeracy has been a problem for quite some time in our schools, the most pertinent questions to ask are: Is this problem solvable? What are some mitigating factors? Research after collecting data on the numeracy skills of children and adults in Trinidad and Tobago identifies some innovative approaches that are making a difference. However, there are not enough of them, and they need to be more coherent.
Today, much of the commentary on numeracy skills focuses on the below-par standards achieved by children in schools, but there is little attention given to the alarming consequences of poor math teaching on adults. In England, one adult in five is innumerate. These adults can’t work out their change when they go shopping, or help their children with homework and they are twice as likely to be unemployed as people who are numerate. This is the shameful legacy of a system that provides free education to all children from the age of five to at least sixteen. In fairness, the government has recognized the need to improve adult skills, focused attention on the problem and established programs such as Skills for Life and Employability Skills Programs etc. But, while these have boosted the skills of thousands of over-18s in the last few years, they have been less successful at tackling poor numeracy, especially among those who are hardest to reach.
A world of constantly-changing technologies brings the challenge of keeping workplace skills updated. While everyone agrees education is the key, the truth is, despite ever-increasing public spending in recent years, Trinidad & Tobago primary school students are learning less today than they did a decade ago according to the UNICEF (2014) Latin America and Caribbean Countries education for all 2015 regional review. If they cannot read or count proficiently, plans to teach them anything new is just an unworkable endeavour. The solution is back to the basics: in order to tackle missing working skills in troubled job markets, numeracy and literacy proficiency are the foundation skills to lift the economic power of this country.
Qualifications are an information tool. They offer a signal, conveying to different stakeholders with more (or less) certainty that the qualified person has a relevant package of knowledge and skills. In principle, such a signal can be hugely beneficial because it makes transparent the knowledge and skills which would otherwise be hard to assess
Obtaining an acceptable level of literacy and numeracy can greatly improve many factors in the life of young people, including improvements to your social life, education and career prospects. The ability to read, write, and understand information, can hugely affect their employability. If young people have poor literacy and numeracy skills, there should be help available to improve their future prospects.
Literacy has been defined in various ways over the years. Previously, being able to sign your name was considered a reasonable sign of literacy. Our understanding of what it means to be literate has altered and current definitions have taken into account the literacy demands of the society we live in. A more recent definition of literacy is the understanding, evaluating, using and engaging with written texts to participate in society, to achieve personal goals and ambitions and to develop knowledge and potential.
Literacy is the ability to read, write, speak and listen in ways that will allow us to communicate effectively to a variety of different audiences and to make sense of the world. Reading and writing, when integrated with speaking, listening and viewing and critical thinking, constitutes valued aspects of literacy in modern life. Literacy is a critical component to ensure all students have the best chance to succeed in their studies and everyday life.
We are all required to be numerate to maximize our potential and to make a positive contribution to society. In our exceedingly technical world, numeracy skills, in particular the ability to interpret data, are becoming increasingly more significant and are hugely sought after by employers. An absence of mathematical confidence and poor numeracy skills are obstructions to employment as numeracy tests are increasingly becoming a routine part of the recruitment process. Rapidly growing technological advances are making the need for numeracy skills more critical within the workplace. With more employees engaging in more sophisticated tasks, numeracy is recognized as an essential employability skill.
Numeracy is defined as the ability to access, use and interpret and communicate mathematical information and ideas, in order to engage in and manage the mathematical demands of various situations in adult years. To be numerate is to confidently and effectively use mathematics to meet the everyday demands of life. Numeracy is important for individuals to develop logical thinking and reasoning strategies in their everyday activities. We need numeracy to solve problems and make sense of numbers, time, patterns and shapes for activities like cooking, reading receipts, reading instructions and even playing sport.
Literacy and numeracy help people gain the fundamental skills necessary to achieve success in life. There is a huge national strategy to improve literacy and numeracy and to support students to live a satisfying and rewarding life as well as being an active participant as an active and well informed resident. Literacy and numeracy skills are crucial for accessing the broader curriculum because they are used in many aspects of our lives. Workplace numeracy, literacy and employability skills are often used in conjunction with one another. These required skills often overlap and are necessary for any task.