A Social and Holistic Approach to Numeracy
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Ripple Schema Jigsaw Task Process Assessment

What does a social and holistic approach look like?

Joy talks about a social and holistic approach to numeracy.



A social and holistic approach to numeracy is based on the principle that the learner is a whole person and that mathematics is a human construction.

In their 2007 report, Beyond Worksheets, Tom Ciancone, Joy Lehmann and Flora Hood shared their thinking on what this approach might offer the literacy field:


We might envision the approach as an “interruption” to what practitioners are presently thinking about and doing in numeracy. It may provide a level of discomfort that may “mirror” or be identified with the discomfort that learners feel in dealing with numeracy issues. Through this approach there may be a space provided where there is an increase in the tension – to question what is happening and what could be happening in the area of numeracy. We are not providing a “quick solution” but rather [a way] to find out more about what and where the learner is and how to provide numeracy in a meaningful way.

From experience in the current project, we would add: for some practitioners, this may not be an interruption, but an affirmation of their current numeracy practice.

Numeracy as Social Practice

  • people employ mathematical content and techniques that vary according to the situation
  • people generate mathematical problems, skills or procedures depending on the purpose and context in which the numeracy takes place

Numeracy through Holistic Learning

  • learning takes into account the whole person – the mind, body and spirit – interacting with the world around and connecting to a larger whole
  • learning is both active and reflective
  • a numeracy learner will move towards a greater sense of confidence and self-awareness in using mathematics, creating meaning in daily activities, reflecting on the learning, and making personal connections throughout the process

The goal and method of the approach

The primary educational goal is a shift in identity towards a numerate individual who makes meaning of the world through mathematics.

The method of the approach is not simply to apply mathematical procedures, but to generate mathematical content and procedures in real world contexts through active learning and reflection.

The following links provide explanation and detail to understand a social and holistic approach more fully:

Ripple looks at the inter-relation between the individual, their family and community and the wider world

Schema describes a schema of learning that integrates aspects of being, knowing, doing

Jigsaw provides a model of holistic numeracy competence

Task Process explains the steps used when solving a task or problem

Assessment discusses the “Blank Page Assessment,” assessing through an open-ended conversation