Literacy and Numeracy for Adults: Make Sense of Numbers to Solve Problems

National Centre of Literacy & Numeracy for Adults, New Zealand
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National Centre of Literacy & Numeracy for Adults, New Zealand
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This website from the National Centre for Literacy and  Numeracy for Adults in New Zealand has developed research to practice materials for educators and adult learners on Learning Progressions (from low literate to higher literate levels) for Numeracy (Make Sense of Numbers to Solve Problems, Reasons Statistically, Measure and Interpret Shape and Space), and Literacy (Listen and Speak to communicate, Read with Understanding, Write to Communicate.) This profile addresses the section on Make Sense of Numbers to Solve Problems, although all of the sections contain the same elements. These elements include well-detailed curricula for each of the sections, other educator resources, learner resources, assessment for learning, professional learning and communities.

The Make Sense of Numbers to Solve Problems resource is based on research of effective adult literacy practices and was developed to support the learning process. It is based on a premise of three elements--know the demands, know the learner, know what to do—all leading to planning targeted lessons and activities to support learning progressions. This PDF download is almost a hundred pages long and is supported by a chart that clearly shows the progression of numeracy from a low level to a high level for additive strategies, multiplicative strategies, proportional reasoning, number sequence, place value, and number facts.

The resource includes possible diagnostic questions to assist in determining the level of students and 30 activities for use with students to strengthen their understandings in the various progressions of the topics above.  The activities specify what mathematical understandings are in the activity, resources needed, guided teaching and learning sequence for the activity, and a follow-up activity for the students.

Required Training

Materials are self-regulating, though a basic understanding of mathematics/numeracy components would be helpful.

What the experts say

This is an excellent resource for teachers and tutors, whether they are new or experienced in numeracy instruction.  The resource states that literacy, language, and numeracy skills are interconnected, and then the resource demonstrates how this is so, and how an instructor might employ a variety of methodologies with learners.

The resource offers excellent tools for diagnostic assessment, and these go far beyond the usual paper-pencil test.  The instructor is asked to notice HOW learners solve problems, not just IF the learner gets a correct answer.

The “guided support” section expects instructors to use multiple strategies to problem solve, and learners are encouraged to share their individual strategies in pairs or in larger groups.  When problems are posed, learners first discuss what they would do to solve the problem:  use a calculator, use a written method, or use a strategy (mental math, manipulatives, diagrams).  This encourages the understanding that differing problems require differing problem-solving methods and differing degrees of precision.

Problems are presented in contexts, and the appendix to the resource gives three examples for further use in developing number sense.  These are rather complex problems requiring only basic numeracy skills, much as found in real life!

Many instructors struggle with how to instruct concepts such as decimals, fractions, and percents.  This resource offers an alternative to the traditional lecture approach.  It follows many theories seen in adult education from Knowles, Lindeman, and Kolb.  The most significant part of this study is that it offers many different ways to teach NRS low-level concepts.

I highly recommend this resource for instructors, tutors, professional development trainers, and anyone else who is interested in reforming the ways in which adults are aided in becoming more numerate.