A Social and Holistic Approach to Numeracy
Home The Project Approach Activities Reflections Resources

Reference Group Members talk about a social and holistic approach to numeracy.

Participants at the project’s summative forum. Left to right: Joy, Denise, Melissa, Sandi, Faduma


Why a social and holistic approach?

There is a consensus among literacy practitioners involved with the workforce and the workplace that there is a numeracy gap and that innovative approaches to numeracy lag behind those for literacy.

One thing that struck me during the workshop was the way that I teach numeracy training to new tutors. When I teach them how to teach reading and writing, I emphasize the pre-, during, and post-reading/writing activities that we, as competent readers, do unconsciously. I emphasize all the things the learner brings to the text, how to teach the learner to interact with the text as they read. Yet, I don't think about that when I'm teaching numeracy! It's just math—I teach the formulae and the learner practices the skill.

Judy Perry, a literacy worker at Beat the Street in Toronto

A social and holistic approach sees numeracy as a part of life, for the whole person, within a social context. It emphasizes context rather than content, processes rather than skills, change in identity not just behaviour. It is a holistic approach, giving prominence to context, meaning, relationships and identity.

This approach to numeracy coincides and strengthens a worker-centred educational process, learning which:

  • is participatory, inclusive and deeply democratic in both its aims and objectives
  • acknowledges and builds on the experiences and skills of workers
  • involves hearts as well as minds

  • promotes solidarity and respect among workers

  • enhances workers’ capacities for critical reflection and action

  • links education with action in the world in a project of social transformation

This website introduces practitioners and others involved in numeracy education for adults to a social and holistic approach.

  • The Project provides background on the field-test which led to this website
  • Approach provides more information on the approach and its components
  • Activities provides sample activities developed by practitioners and the team leading the project
  • Reflections provides practitioner and learner feedback on the benefits and challenges of using a social and holistic approach to numeracy
  • Resources provides an annotated list of key print and web resources, and a list of other relevant resources