- LAST REVIEWED: 19 August 2020
- LAST MODIFIED: 25 November 2014
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0118
- LAST REVIEWED: 19 August 2020
- LAST MODIFIED: 25 November 2014
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0118
Numeracy has become an integral part of mathematics education. But the precise nature and implications of teaching for numeracy in primary/elementary and secondary schooling are still being worked through by the academic, practitioner, and policy communities. Although numeracy is generally accepted as recognizing the importance of schooling that ensures students will learn mathematics that can be applied in their adult lives (as opposed to say, the mathematics required for further study of the discipline or for specialist professions), there is yet to be agreement on what this should look like in practice. At one extreme, numeracy is interpreted as equipping school leavers with the basic skills of arithmetic in that numeracy is regarded as a subset of mathematics. At the other extreme, arguments are made for numeracy teaching needing to address the political dimensions of mathematics and its uses in society and thus help learners become critical citizens. Sections of this bibliography present key texts for each side of this debate. A common assumption to both positions is that learning about number and arithmetic has to go beyond being taught procedures and needs to help learners develop “number sense.” Many scholars have theorized and researched what the components of number sense might comprise, and others have examined the sorts of pedagogies that might promote such learning: key texts in teaching and learning for number sense are presented. If it is the case that current schooling is not succeeding in helping learners develop the numeracy skills that they need for life outside of school, then this raises questions about the nature and content of the school curriculum. One approach to accounting for the shortcomings of school-taught numeracy is that learning is highly “situated”: what is learned is heavily influenced by the contexts in which it is learned. Hence, different levels of numerate behavior are demonstrated by learners in different contexts; and the argument goes that it may be only a select few learners who have the wherewithal to transfer their mathematical knowledge out of the classroom. Other researchers are more optimistic that the school curriculum can promote numeracy, particularly by engaging learners in authentic problem solving, although what is authentic for one learner may not be for another, which raises issues about equity. Finally, with the increased use of international comparisons to compare nations, policymakers are increasingly concerned to raise standards of numeracy and so a section examines some policy initiatives and outcomes. Readers should note that although there is an increasing literature base about college-level numeracy, and wide research into adult numeracy, the scope of this review mainly addresses numeracy in primary and secondary schools.
Although the term “numeracy” has become widely adopted within education, and particularly by policymakers, there is no agreement over the precise meaning of the term or clarity over its relationship to mathematics. As a verb, numerate as meaning “to count or calculate” dates back at least to the 17th century, but the Crowther Report (Department of Education and Science 1959) turned the term into a noun, with emphasis on high levels of understanding of scientific ideas. By the 1990s numeracy, particularly in the UK and Australia, had become more associated with developing the skills of mathematics in everyday life and basic “number sense” (Cockcroft 1982 and Willis 1990). Thus one generally accepted view of numeracy might be summed up as “functional,” as a subset of mathematics, largely about number and appealing to those in favor of “back to basics.” Girling 1997 argues that the increasing availability of calculators changed the nature of what number sense might be, with less emphasis on performing actual calculations: this debate is still to be resolved, particularly in relation to adults’ needs (Neill 2001 and Kaye 2003). The United States was a late adopter of the term “numeracy,” with US writers preferring the term “qualitative literacy,” seen as distinct from being a subset of mathematics. So whereas mathematics might be characterized as dealing with the abstract and general, qualitative literacy requires the development of critical engagement with particular instances of mathematics in use (Steen 2001 and Mayes, et al. 2013). The growth in attention that international testing has garnered, in particular the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA: Programme for International Student Assessment) and its definition of mathematical literacy has to an extent brought more global unity to the definition of numeracy, particularly as more nations join this program of assessment.
Cockcroft, W. H. 1982. Mathematics counts: Report of the committee of inquiry into the teaching of mathematics in schools. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.
NNNSets the tone for many of the later interpretations of numeracy by defining it as having an “at homeness” with numbers and an ability to cope with the mathematics of everyday life.
Department of Education and Science. 1959. A report of the central advisory council for education (the Crowther report). London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.
NNNGenerally considered to be the first time both “numerate” as an adjective (as opposed to a verb) and the noun “numeracy” were used in the broad sense of “scientific literacy” (a term that is itself now widely contested) and thus mirror the term “literacy.”
Girling, M. 1997. Towards a definition of basic numeracy. Mathematics Teaching 81:1–4.
NNNThis classic paper, originally written for a meeting of the Schools Calculators Working Party, was one of the first to argue for the sensible use of calculators to replace teaching standard algorithms: the debate around this still continues.
Kaye, D. 2003. Defining numeracy: Concepts, meaning and words. In Learning mathematics to live and work in our world. Proceedings of the 10th international conference on adults learning mathematics. Edited by J. Maasz and W. Schloeglmann, 194–199. Strobl, Austria: Rudulf Trauner Univ.
NNNSummarizes a range of definitions presented at the Adults Learning Mathematics conferences. Many of these are relevant to school numeracy, and there are links to papers and other resources.
Mayes, R. L., F. Peterson, and R. Bonilla. 2013. Quantitative reasoning learning progressions for environmental science: Developing a framework. Numeracy 6.1: Article 4.
NNNAlthough the primary focus on the numeracy (quantitative reasoning) this paper has a good overview of the literature and various definitions of numeracy.
Neill, A. W. 2001. The Essentials of Numeracy. Paper prepared for New Zealand Council for Educational Research. Christchurch, 6th–9th December.
NNNPresents various definitions of numeracy and identifies common themes, particularly in terms of numeracy as an essential skill. The idea of “street-wise maths” is briefly examined.
PISA: Programme for International Student Assessment.
NNNPortal to the wide range of PISA reports, many of which focus on mathematical literacy.
Steen, L. A., ed. 2001. Mathematics and democracy: The case for quantitative literacy. Washington, DC: National Council on Education and the Disciplines (NCED).
NNNNumeracy is a less frequently used term in the US literature, with Steen consistently working to include quantitative literacy (QL) in public education. This strong collection of papers argues for why QL should be included in education: what it is, what it is not, and in particular how QL is more than just applied arithmetic.
Willis, S., ed. 1990. Being Numerate: What counts? Hawthorn: Australian Council for Educational Research.
NNNAn early but significant set of papers focusing on numeracy in the context of daily life and on the importance of teaching numeracy skills. Defining numeracy is considered in terms of implications for teaching and assessment.
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- Academic Achievement
- Academic Audit for Universities
- Academic Freedom and Tenure in the United States
- Action Research in Education
- Adjuncts in Higher Education in the United States
- Administrator Preparation
- Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Courses
- Advocacy and Activism in Early Childhood
- African American Racial Identity and Learning
- Alaska Native Education
- Alternative Certification Programs for Educators
- Alternative Schools
- American Indian Education
- Art Education
- Artificial Intelligence and Learning
- Assessing School Leader Effectiveness
- Assessment, Behavioral
- Assessment, Educational
- Assessment in Early Childhood Education
- Assistive Technology
- Augmented Reality in Education
- Beginning-Teacher Induction
- Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
- Blended Learning
- Case Study in Education Research
- Changing Professional and Academic Identities
- Character Education
- Children’s and Young Adult Literature
- Children's Beliefs about Intelligence
- Children's Rights in Early Childhood Education
- Citizenship Education
- Civic and Social Engagement of Higher Education
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- Classroom Management
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- College Admissions in the United States
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- Community Relations
- Comparative Education
- Computer-Based Testing
- Conceptualizing, Measuring, and Evaluating Improvement Net...
- Continuous Improvement and "High Leverage" Educational Pro...
- Counseling in Schools
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- Critical Race Theory
- Crossborder and Transnational Higher Education
- Cross-National Research on Continuous Improvement
- Cross-Sector Research on Continuous Learning and Improveme...
- Cultural Diversity in Early Childhood Education
- Culturally Responsive Leadership
- Culturally Responsive Pedagogies
- Culturally Responsive Teacher Education in the United Stat...
- Curriculum Design
- Data Collection in Educational Research
- Data-driven Decision Making in the United States
- Deaf Education
- Desegregation and Integration
- Design Thinking and the Learning Sciences: Theoretical, Pr...
- Development, Moral
- Dialogic Pedagogy
- Digital Age Teacher, The
- Digital Citizenship
- Digital Divides
- Distance Learning
- Distributed Leadership
- Doctoral Education and Training
- Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) in Denmark
- Early Childhood Education and Development in Mexico
- Early Childhood Education in Aotearoa New Zealand
- Early Childhood Education in Australia
- Early Childhood Education in China
- Early Childhood Education in Europe
- Early Childhood Education in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Early Childhood Education in Sweden
- Early Childhood Education Pedagogy
- Early Childhood Education Policy
- Early Childhood Education, The Arts in
- Early Childhood Mathematics
- Early Childhood Science
- Early Childhood Teacher Education
- Early Childhood Teachers in Aotearoa New Zealand
- Early Years Professionalism and Professionalization Polici...
- Economics of Education
- Education For Children with Autism
- Education for Sustainable Development
- Education Leadership, Empirical Perspectives in
- Education of Native Hawaiian Students
- Education Reform and School Change
- Educational Statistics for Longitudinal Research
- Educator Partnerships with Parents and Families with a Foc...
- Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
- Epistemic Beliefs
- Equity and Improvement: Engaging Communities in Educationa...
- Equity, Ethnicity, Diversity, and Excellence in Education
- Ethical Research with Young Children
- Ethics and Education
- Ethics of Teaching
- Ethnic Studies
- Evidence-Based Communication Assessment and Intervention
- Family and Community Partnerships in Education
- Family Day Care
- Federal Government Programs and Issues
- Feminization of Labor in Academia
- Finance, Education
- Financial Aid
- Formative Assessment
- Future-Focused Education
- Gender and Achievement
- Gender and Alternative Education
- Gifted Education
- Global Mindedness and Global Citizenship Education
- Global University Rankings
- Governance, Education
- Grounded Theory
- Growth of Effective Mental Health Services in Schools in t...
- Higher Education and Globalization
- Higher Education and the Developing World
- Higher Education Faculty Characteristics and Trends in the...
- Higher Education Finance
- Higher Education Governance
- Higher Education Graduate Outcomes and Destinations
- Higher Education in Africa
- Higher Education in China
- Higher Education in Latin America
- Higher Education in the United States, Historical Evolutio...
- Higher Education, International Issues in
- Higher Education Management
- Higher Education Policy
- Higher Education Research
- Higher Education Student Assessment
- High-stakes Testing
- History of Early Childhood Education in the United States
- History of Education in the United States
- History of Technology Integration in Education
- Inclusion in Early Childhood: Difference, Disability, and ...
- Inclusive Education
- Indigenous Education in a Global Context
- Indigenous Learning Environments
- Indigenous Students in Higher Education in the United Stat...
- Infant and Toddler Pedagogy
- Inservice Teacher Education
- Integrating Art across the Curriculum
- Intensive Interventions for Children and Adolescents with ...
- International Perspectives on Academic Freedom
- Intersectionality and Education
- Knowledge Development in Early Childhood
- Leadership Development, Coaching and Feedback for
- Leadership in Early Childhood Education
- Leadership Training with an Emphasis on the United States
- Learning Analytics in Higher Education
- Learning Difficulties
- Learning, Lifelong
- Learning, Multimedia
- Learning Strategies
- Legal Matters and Education Law
- LGBT Youth in Schools
- Linguistic Diversity
- Linguistically Inclusive Pedagogy
- Literacy Development and Language Acquisition
- Literature Reviews
- Mathematics Identity
- Mathematics Instruction and Interventions for Students wit...
- Mathematics Teacher Education
- Measurement for Improvement in Education
- Measurement in Education in the United States
- Meta-Analysis and Research Synthesis in Education
- Methodological Approaches for Impact Evaluation in Educati...
- Methodologies for Conducting Education Research
- Mindfulness, Learning, and Education
- Mixed Methods Research
- Multiliteracies in Early Childhood Education
- Multiple Documents Literacy: Theory, Research, and Applica...
- Multivariate Research Methodology
- Museums, Education, and Curriculum
- Music Education
- Narrative Research in Education
- Native American Studies
- Numeracy Education
- One-to-One Technology in the K-12 Classroom
- Online Education
- Open Education
- Organizing for Continuous Improvement in Education
- Organizing Schools for the Inclusion of Students with Disa...
- Outdoor Play and Learning
- Outdoor Play and Learning in Early Childhood Education
- Pedagogical Leadership
- Pedagogy of Teacher Education, A
- Performance Objectives and Measurement
- Performance-based Research Assessment in Higher Education
- Performance-based Research Funding
- Phenomenology in Educational Research
- Philosophy of Education
- Physical Education
- Podcasts in Education
- Policy Context of United States Educational Innovation and...
- Politics of Education
- Portable Technology Use in Special Education Programs and ...
- Pre-Service Teacher Education
- Problem Solving
- Productivity and Higher Education
- Professional Development
- Professional Learning Communities
- Program Evaluation
- Programs and Services for Students with Emotional or Behav...
- Psychology Learning and Teaching
- Psychometric Issues in the Assessment of English Language ...
- Qualitative Data Analysis Techniques
- Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Research Samp...
- Qualitative Research Design
- Quantitative Research Designs in Educational Research
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- Reading Education
- Refugee and New Immigrant Learners
- Relational and Developmental Trauma and Schools
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- Reliability in Educational Assessments
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- Scaling Up Research-based Educational Practices
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- School Choice
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- School Improvement through Inclusive Education
- School Reform
- Schools, Private and Independent
- School-Wide Positive Behavior Support
- Science Education
- Secondary to Postsecondary Transition Issues
- Self-Regulated Learning
- Self-Study of Teacher Education Practices
- Severe Disabilities
- Single Salary Schedule
- Single-sex Education
- Single-Subject Research Design
- Social Context of Education
- Social Justice
- Social Network Analysis
- Social Pedagogy
- Social Science and Education Research
- Social Studies Education
- Sociology of Education
- Standards-Based Education
- Statistical Assumptions
- Student Access, Equity, and Diversity in Higher Education
- Student Assignment Policy
- Student Engagement in Tertiary Education
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- Student Participation
- Student Voice in Teacher Development
- Sustainability Education in Early Childhood Education
- Sustainability in Early Childhood Education
- Sustainability in Higher Education
- Teacher Beliefs and Epistemologies
- Teacher Collaboration in School Improvement
- Teacher Evaluation and Teacher Effectiveness
- Teacher Preparation
- Teacher Training and Development
- Teacher Unions and Associations
- Teacher-Student Relationships
- Teaching Critical Thinking
- Technologies, Teaching, and Learning in Higher Education
- Technology Education in Early Childhood
- Technology, Educational
- Technology-based Assessment
- The Bologna Process
- The Regulation of Standards in Higher Education
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- Women's and Gender Studies
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- Young Children's Learning Dispositions
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