INTRODUCTION: CONCEPT OF NUMERACY
The purpose of this paper is to consider how numeracy can be improved in Canada, taking into account the experience so far, both in Canada and internationally. The focus is on adult numeracy, particularly at the more basic levels and in the workplace.
This paper is based in large part on interviews with numeracy practitioners, who are listed in the annex. It is also based on a review of the relevant literature, as listed in the attached bibliography of books, documents and Web sites.
The word "numeracy" is a neologism a new, invented word that has come into use among specialist communities in Britain, Australia, Canada and the United States. "Numeracy" is the quantitative, mathematical counterpart of literacy. It is not yet a household word.
In French, there is, as yet, no single word that is equivalent to "numeracy". However, there is a need for a short word (such as "numéracie") to express the concept, since otherwise it is difficult to discuss the subject in a concise way or to give the concept a sufficiently wide range of meaning.
Unless there is a recognized concept such as numeracy (or a close equivalent), it is difficult to come up with a strategy and a coordinated set of programs for promoting numeracy.
Before the word "numeracy" came into use, there was discussion of terms such as "mathematical literacy" and "quantitative literacy", which placed the focus on calculations and the ways in which numbers and mathematical concepts were embedded in texts, but which did not take into account the wider practical uses of numbers and mathematics in the workplace and in personal life on an everyday basis.
Several useful definitions of numeracy have been put forward, including the following:
1 Australia, Beazley Committee, quoted in the International Life Skills Survey (ILSS) Numeracy Framework, p. 13.
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