​​​The Importance and Relevance of Numeracy

“When am I ever going to use that in real life?"

As adults, you may recall having made this comment or hearing this comment from your peers at school. And yet, during the COVID pandemic the importance of mathematical concepts and people being numerate was never greater or more urgent.

Whilst mathematical concepts and modelling will help us overcome this pandemic, our ability to understand the information being provided by media outlets and different levels of Government relies on us being numerate. The many key terms or phrases that we are hearing, such as “flattening the curve”, four square metres, 1.5 metres social distancing, 14 days quarantine and herd immunity, rely on our levels of numeracy to process and understand what that actually means in our everyday life. Even people who have hoarded toilet paper, rice, pasta and flour have made a numerate everyday decision to do so!

What is numeracy?

To be a numerate person, means that you can confidently and effectively use mathematics to meet the everyday demands of life. Basically, you use learned mathematical concepts in your normal everyday contexts to successfully carry out functional tasks.

Numeracy enables us to develop logical thinking and reasoning strategies to solve problems and make sense of time, numbers, patterns and shapes for activities like cooking, reading a map or a bill, reading instructions and even playing sport.

Ways to support your child’s numeracy development.

Research has shown that children’s motivation and achievement improve when their parents or carers are involved in their education.  Whilst you may be challenged by the level of mathematics content undertaken by your student, you are still perfectly able to include other numeracy learning such as:

  • Exploring situations using money such as shopping, budgets and credit cards
  • estimating, measuring and comparing lengths and heights. For older students they could be involved in home improvement projects
  • how heavy or light things are and how much containers hold
  • talking about different ways to solve a problem
  • using everyday tools like tape measures or kitchen scales and discussing units of measurement
  • observing and using timetables, calendars and clocks for different purposes like study periods , time management planning, holiday planning, catching public transport etc
  • playing number games using magazines, books, newspapers etc
  • organising, categorising and counting
  • calculating the best value for products whilst grocery shopping or mobile plans
  • formulating a sustainability model for the household.

As stated earlier, at times we are presented with lots of information (such as line graphs, column graphs, charts, statistics, tallies, probabilities, predictions, ratios etc) that require us to make connections using our mathematical models and apply it to everyday considerations (such as budgeting, mortgages, superannuation, DIY home improvements etc). The importance of numeracy has been elevated to a very essential part of our worlds, and all of us are unquestionably using the mathematical knowledge we learnt at school in real everyday life!

Last reviewed 15 May 2023
Last updated 15 May 2023