Mathematics and Numeracy
Maths surrounds us and underpins so many aspects of our daily lives, such as architecture, art, music, money and engineering. And while it is creative and beautiful, both in its own right and in its applications, it is also essential for progress in other areas of learning and experience.
What is more, numeracy – the application of mathematics to solve problems in real-world contexts – plays a critical part in our everyday lives. It is imperative, therefore, that mathematics and numeracy experiences are as engaging, exciting and accessible as possible for learners, and that these experiences are geared towards ensuring that learners develop mathematical resilience.
In the early years, play forms an important part in the development of mathematics and numeracy, enabling learners to solve problems, explore ideas, establish connections and collaborate with others. In later years, learners need to have opportunities to work both independently and collaboratively to build on the foundations established in the early years.
Progression in the Mathematics and Numeracy Area of Learning and Experience involves the development of five connected and interdependent proficiencies:
- Conceptual understanding
- Communication using symbols
- Logical reasoning
- Strategic competence
Formal mathematics has developed through rigorous logical reasoning. It involves inventing or discovering abstract objects and establishing the relationships between them. It also teaches the difference between conjecture, likelihood and proof.
Mathematical thinking involves applying similarly logical reasoning, this time to the investigation of relations within and between concepts, along with justifying and proving findings. Indeed, understanding mathematical concepts and being able to apply and reason with the abstract representations of concepts is central to learning mathematics. And essential to this is comprehension of, and proficiency with, the symbols and symbol systems used in mathematics.
Applying mathematics requires strategic competence in the use of abstraction and modelling, and learners develop resilience, as well as a sense of achievement and enjoyment, as they overcome the challenges involved. Subsequently, mathematical activities teach learners not to be afraid of unfamiliar or complex problems, as they can be reduced to a succession of simpler problems and, eventually, to basic computations. As they reflect on the approaches used, and on their own mathematics and numeracy learning, learners can develop metacognitive skills which can help them identify steps to take to improve performance. Through this they can become ambitious, capable learners, ready to learn throughout their lives.