Numbers and math are becoming more important in all areas of knowledge. For example, over the past several decades, the social sciences have been making much more use of math, statistics, and data analysis more generally. Math is increasingly important as a requirement or prerequisite. For many fields, mathematics is the "gatekeeper".
As citizens, taxpayers, and stakeholders, people need to understand math and numbers, e.g., in discussions of taxes, expenditures, interest rates, employment levels, public opinion polls, and elections. More data is now available, and more data enters into the discussion of public policy issues. For example, the current discussion of education and school closures in Ontario (with important implications for adult numeracy education) involves consideration of a funding formula and a space formula, both of which are based on complex calculations covering a range of variables. These formulas are being applied in the context of demographic trends and school enrollments, in a situation where a closure or program change affecting one school will impact on programs and enrollments in neighbouring schools.
Canada has participated (and is continuing to participate) in major international studies such as the following:
In the International Adult Literacy Survey, there were three literacy scales: prose literacy, document literacy, and quantitative literacy (which was defined as, "the knowledge and skills required to apply arithmetic operations, either alone or sequentially, to numbers embedded in printed materials, such as balancing a chequebook, figuring out a tip, completing an order form, or determining the amount of interest on a loan from an advertisement.")(13) In this context, mathematical and numerical skills were closely linked to literacy skills, and were not measured separately from literacy. The focus was on math operations on numbers embedded in text.
13 Highlights from the Second Report of IALS.
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