Developing Critical Numeracy Across the Curriculum


Numeracy in the News

This website aims to help teachers develop teaching and learning strategies to build students' critical numeracy - their ability to think discerningly about the way mathematical concepts are used in everyday contexts such as the news. 

It can be used by both mathematics teachers and teachers across the curriculum who wish to bring a critical numeracy lens into their exploration of topics in their subject areas. We include a range of exemplars and tips for constructing activities as well as a deeper exploration of the issues of developing critical numeracy.

Critical Numeracy is the ability to make discerning decisions about everyday issues that involve mathematical concepts. In this website we use a Four Resource Critical Numeracy Model as a key lens in the design of teaching and learning activities. By making thinking visible for students they can be empowered to bring a  critical numeracy lens to their own everyday reading, judgements and actions. Critical numeracy works in combination with other literacies and lenses (emotional, spiritual, ethical, aesthetic, scientific, historical, philosophic, environmental, social and critical literacy) to help build capacities for wise citizenship.

Why the News?

We use newspaper articles as starting points because they are a great source of current issues that have relevance to students and their local communities. They present subject matter that students can care about or have opinions on. Articles often quote numbers, surveys, averages or likelihoods in order to present a case or a particular point of view. These may be misleading, over-zealous or controversial. They then present an engaging way for students to explore both the topics and the mathematical concepts. They give students opportunities to create products that have meaning and usefulness to other audiences as well as themselves, thus obtaining feedback about their thinking.

Resources on this website include:

  • 30 teaching activities using recent news items and over 150 archived activities. These are categorised according to the context (science, society and history, environment, health and wellbeing) or according to key mathematical concepts within the Chance and Data Mathematics Strand;
  • an exploration of the Four Resource Model for Critical Numeracy.
  • generic thinking strategies which can help make thinking more visible and encourage students to be creative in the way they use and think about the topics and the mathematical concepts;
  • research about the ways students think about key mathematical concepts (such as average, chance, graphing and percentage) - their preconceptions and how their ideas develop;
  • experiences of teachers who took part in an Action Research project over several months in developing "critical numeracy" classrooms.
  • guidance in how to developing activities and learning sequences using news articles

This website is a collaboration between the Department of Education, Tasmania; The Faculty of Education, University of Tasmania; and the Hobart Mercury. It is based on research by Professor Jane Watson, Dr Sue Stack and Denise Neal.