It is much easier simply to administer a test of mathematical skills that can be readily measured, e.g., skills in arithmetic. In some cases, the tests may be linked directly to what is needed in the workplace (particularly in cases of workplace numeracy training). In other cases, the tests may be context free. Where tests are important, there is a tendency for instructors to "teach to the test" and for students to "learn to the test". For many students, math is a complex and difficult subject, and they need to focus their efforts.
In a publicly-funded system, there will always be strong pressures for accountability, so this problem is unavoidable. One solution is to make the tests ever more sophisticated and realistic - but this takes time, effort, and money. Another solution is to involve stakeholders - especially employers - more closely in the process.
What actions are being taken and should be taken to address the problems and challenges discussed above and to ensure a high degree of success in numeracy programs and services? What strategies should be considered?
Here, we discuss general types of actions and strategies which are being undertaken in Canada and elsewhere, and which could be expanded or enhanced in order to improve numeracy further in Canada.
The first item on everyone's list is improved teacher training.
As noted, many (perhaps most) of the teachers who teach numeracy and basic mathematics do not have extensive backgrounds in mathematics, and may also lack specific training in numeracy (i.e., in the application of mathematics in real life situations).
Internationally, the country that has the most well developed programs for teacher training is Australia, which has developed both shorter courses and more extensive programs, including a certificate in adult numeracy.
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