Developing Numerical Literacy

As as team our Math/Science teachers are focusing on improving the numerical literacy of our students, from grade 4 to 9. During team meetings, teachers are beginning to discuss some of the foundational concepts that students struggle with in mathematics.

After the team’s first discussion, Principal Darrell Lonsberry had this to say:

I came away from the meeting with our math/science team absolutely energized and excited about our conversation. All of our teachers recognize that there are two fundamental, and very much related, concepts that our students consistently struggle with in math: proportion and number lines (number sense).

Some of the observations from teachers to support this supposition are:

  • Having to re-teach operations with fractions to our grade 9 students.
  • Students not being able to correctly place any sort of fraction on a number line (they may put the fraction 7/8 between 7 and 8 – but closer to 8, of course, because 7/8 is a large fraction).
  • Difficulty understanding the relationships between fractions, percents and decimals.

I believe that the problems our students are having regarding developing a firm conceptual and operational understanding of these two topics is fairly universal. We know that there are some methods of teaching that promote thinking errors for proportional understanding – relying on the pie or pizza method of teaching fractions, for example. What we don’t have a firm grasp of, and what we are seeking assistance with, is good teaching practices from grades 4 to 9 on how to promote a deeper understanding of these universal mathematical concepts.

We will look at enlisting the help of the Galileo Educational Network to help us sift through the research and design authentic learning experiences to promote deeper conceptual understanding of proportion and number sense.
This team focus on basic skills in numerical literacy will be taken up in subsequent posts and videos from Calgary Science School classrooms.

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