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A Social and Holistic Approach to Numeracy
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The following series of activities focuses on the affective numeracy competencies: confidence, autonomy and self-awareness.

Building Confidence, Autonomy and Self-awareness

One practitioner shared the way she would look at the development of a learning process with emphasis on building learner confidence, autonomy and self-awareness.

Begin with an open-ended assessment:
• Where are you now?
• What do you need to learn?

Set goals together.

Choose resources together – the wider the scope of materials, the greater the test of knowledge.

Encourage practice, practice, practice.

Encourage and facilitate self-assessment.

Provide opportunities to teach others – through presentation, through explanation.

Affirm a shift in affective numeracy competencies, that is, personal growth in confidence, autonomy (independence), and self-awareness as a learner.

Building Autonomy

Consider a learner who is a registered apprentice preparing for a test.

What do you do?

1. Start with an open-ended assessment. Get to know the learner’s background and experience, in addition to determining what skills might be needed.

2. Draw out needs and gaps:

  • numeracy skills such as operations (whole numbers, fractions, decimals); conversion in measurement; word problems
  • familiarity with various types of test questions, i.e. multiple choice
  • test-taking strategies
  • language skills to support numeracy learning

3. Generate a learning plan.

4. Develop relevant activities, including review, self-assessment activities.

5. Select appropriate materials specific to apprenticeship trade, in addition to literacy and numeracy resources.

6. Support through tutoring and weekly meetings.

Building Confidence

What do you do?

  • Start with assessment of student’s math skills (where he/she is weak and strong).
  • Show learner the list of skills he/she likely needs to improve.
  • Let learner decide where to start with those skills.
  • This might give the learner a sense of confidence and maybe help to lessen “math anxiety.”
  • Possible Problem #1. Math is a fairly logical subject. What if a learner chooses to start at Step 4, not knowing that Steps 1, 2 and 3 are necessary first?
  • In response to Problem #1, the instructor could start at Step 4 and “gently” lead the learner to the realization that Steps1, 2, and 3 are necessary first.
  • Possible Problem #2: Suppose a learner chooses not to choose any step?
  • Possible solution to Problem #2: The instructor chooses Step 1, teaches it and then again offers learner choice on the next steps.

Math Anxiety "back to the books..."

Anxiety is a major factor... N -O- T Math P-L E-A-S-E!

What do you do?

- Quick math “assessment”, two-pager

- Sit with learner to work on page 1

  • Page 1: addition, subtraction and multiplication – check together!

- Once done, hand out page 2.

  • Page 2: division, fractions, decimals and percents (these are often forgotten or rusty skills - squeaky! creaky!! scary!!! They need some ‘oil’.)

When assessment is done together as an activity, this helps build confidence which in turn lessens learner anxiety.

Building Confidence


  • Start with ‘do-able’ exercises
  • Reinforce success
  • Understand process exercises with physical things, i.e. beans


  • Write in long-hand what had been done in formula form


  • Teach others what has been learned
  • Volunteer in learning centre, e.g. as a peer tutor

Skill-based/problem solving:

  • Apply skills to other learning activities, i.e. apply problem-solving in math to problem-solving in life

Confidence Includes Self-awareness

What do you do?

  • Build on previous successes such as completion of different modules and the math areas, e.g. fractions, decimals, area.
  • Develop a good, neat, organized notebook or journal (instead of loose scraps of paper easily lost).
  • Go slowly, success does not happen overnight. It’s a long-term effort.