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date: 08 December 2022

Numeracy Across the Curriculumlocked

Numeracy Across the Curriculumlocked

  • Merrilyn GoosMerrilyn GoosUniversity of the Sunshine Coast, School of Education & Tertiary Access
  •  and Kathy O'SullivanKathy O'SullivanDepartment of Education, National University of Ireland Galway


Numeracy is related to, but different from, mathematics. While mathematical development proceeds through increasing abstraction, numerate practice is instead firmly grounded in making sense of real-life contexts. Education systems around the world acknowledge the importance of numeracy as an essential goal of schooling, since poor numeracy skills are known to diminish an individual’s life chances and limit national prosperity and social development.

Different manifestations of numeracy can be located along a continuum that distinguishes between numeracy as a technical skill needed for performing everyday tasks and numeracy as a social practice that underpins critical citizenship. In the school curriculum, there are also different ways of addressing students’ numeracy development; however, there is growing consensus that numeracy should be taught as an essential element of all subjects, that is, as “numeracy across the curriculum.” This process should not trivialize numeracy by representing it as basic arithmetic or simple calculation skills; instead, the numeracy capabilities that are genuinely needed for learning a curricular subject need to be rigorously identified and nurtured in students.

Two strategies are usually recognized for achieving this goal: integrating mathematics with other areas of the curriculum or, alternatively, identifying the intrinsic numeracy demands and opportunities in disciplines other than mathematics. The former strategy is less feasible when both the curriculum and teacher preparation are organized around subject specialisms, thus inhibiting interdisciplinary collaboration between teachers. The latter strategy responds to curriculum designs that recognize numeracy as a cross-cutting competency to be developed in all subjects.

For numeracy across the curriculum to become a reality in schools, teachers need to be provided with numeracy frameworks and models that align with the official curriculum, together with practical guidance for classroom implementation across year levels and subjects. This does not mean that all teachers need to become mathematics specialists; it does mean that teachers should be supported to see how a focus on numeracy can enhance the achievement of curriculum goals in the subjects they teach.


  • Curriculum and Pedagogy
  • Professional Learning and Development

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