5 Approaches to Teaching PreK-12 Numeracy

To effectively work towards college and career readiness for all students, it’s absolutely crucial that we stress the importance of numeracy just as much as we attend to literacy. Today’s learners can no longer enter higher education or the workforce without comfort, confidence, and fluency in mathematics. Numeracy is an essential skill to master for any career, and particularly necessary for occupations in STEM. Unfortunately, math education tends to carry a stigma that other subjects do not: many students believe that their abilities in math are fixed and limited — and, as an extension, that numeracy is inaccessible. It’s up to PreK-12 mathematics teachers, and their district leaders, to change the stigma around math and to ultimately create a population of numerate learners.

In order to help you construct a learning environment with a strong emphasis on numeracy, we’ve put together a full guide: “Numeracy and Mathematics in PreK-12: A Comprehensive Approach to Student Success.” In it, you’ll find an overview of the current mathematical climate in schools, and a basic outline of the term “numeracy.” You’ll also find 5 key strategies for building numeracy skills in your classroom, school or district. Download the guide in the link below, or continue reading for a quick overview of the guide’s contents:

5 Keys to PreK-12 Numeracy:

Believing that Every Student Can Become Numerate

The first key to numeracy that you’ll find in the guide is around math positivity and learning environments — it’s a matter of starting with the belief that math is for everyone. In math more so than other areas of study, students tend to understand their abilities and intelligence as fixed, and that they’re either good at math or “not a math person.” Before educators can hope to teach true numeracy, they must first cultivate a district-wide growth mindset in math. In the guide, you’ll find strategies for making that happen. Here’s a sneak peak:

“Factors such as the ethnicity or the gender of a student have shown no measurable impact on a student’s ability to succeed. For instance, stereotypes often suggest that boys are better at math than girls, and yet studies have shown that any differences in cognitive performance between males and females are most likely the result of social, cultural and confidence level factors.”

Encouraging Early Numeracy

In the guide, you’ll find information on the importance to mathematics exposure in early childhood. Early practice with mathematics can contribute to a healthier relationship with numeracy as well as provide PreK educators with the opportunity to connect everyday mathematics with academic math concepts. In the case of early childhood education, it’s particularly important to begin making math relevant through these connections. Educators can do so by using manipulatives and hands-on activities. Here’s a tip from the guide:

“By giving elementary school-aged children positive experiences with using math in hands-on ways, teachers can peak their interest, build conceptual understanding, and help them become more confident in their math abilities.”

Promoting Collaborative Classrooms

Fostering collaborative classrooms can translate to increased math positivity. It also provides students opportunities to learn from each other — in style, approach, and enthusiasm — while actively engaging and practicing academic language and mathematical discourse. In the guide, you’ll find a list of benefits that come with organizing students to work in small groups. For example:

“Include English language learners by inviting their participation and enabling them to learn from others through conversation.”

Encouraging Creativity in Math

In educational spaces, we tend to associate creativity with literacy far before we associate it with numeracy. But if we provide students with opportunities to tie their creative abilities and intellectual interests with mathematical concepts, they will be far more engaged in numeracy practice. The guide encourages educators to present math problems as a mystery to solve, rather than as a series of functions to memorize. Here’s another guide sneak peek:

“When students view their math experiences as purposeful (related to real-world situations) and enjoyable (they gain confidence and understanding by thinking through a problem), they are much more likely to want to move on to the next challenge.”

Differentiate Instruction

Mathematics students enter the classroom with a variety of needs. The guide recommends that educators reach all students by being explicit and differentiating instruction. In the guide, you’ll find a list of best practices for differentiating math instruction. See one below:

“Activities such as modeling, presenting multiple examples of the problem and solution, and providing clear and immediate corrective feedback are critical for ongoing success.”

For more details into each of the five keys to teaching numeracy, as well as research and specific examples and strategies, download the full guide here:

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