A Social and Holistic Approach to Numeracy
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Model of Holistic Numeracy Competence

In Rethinking Assessment: Strategies for holistic adult numeracy assessment, the authors used a jigsaw puzzle to illustrate a model of holistic numeracy competence. Interlocking parts represent the cognitive and affective competencies, both of which are essential in numeracy learning. Confidence plays the central role, and is connected with all of the other puzzle pieces.

Tom talks about the Jigsaw: Model of Holistic Numeracy Competence.

Cognitive aspects of competence:

Using skills and knowledge
The key elements of this competence are repeated demonstration, understanding of concepts, and integration of different aspects of numeracy.

Using the Task Process Cycle
Learners demonstrate their competence through completing whole tasks following a four-phase cycle, instead of simply demonstrating isolated math skills.

Transfer and application of skills and knowledge
Learners are able to use what they have learned in diverse situations.

Affective aspects of competence:


Shifts in a learner’s confidence or self-esteem as a numerate person

Personal connections
The ability to relate their learning to their personal lives and make connections with what they do beyond the classroom

Awareness of themselves as learners
The importance of being aware of your learning style as well as what you have learned

Growth of autonomy as a learner
Taking control of your own learning, have opinions and take risks

adapted from Rethinking Assessment: Strategies for holistic adult numeracy assessment by B. Marr, S. Helme and D. Tout, 2003

How Can We Assess Learners’ Numeracy Competence?


Skills and Knowledge
Can a learner demonstrate their skills in repeated situations? Do they have understanding of skills and processes? Can they fit together different pieces of knowledge and connect new skills with past knowledge? Do they see numeracy as related competencies rather than isolated skills?

Task Process Cycle
How does a learner go about resolving a problem? What strategies do they use? Do they reflect upon the meaning of the outcomes?

Transfer and application (of skills and knowledge)
Can a learner apply their numeracy skills from a specific problem to other situations?

Is there a shift in a learner’s confidence or self-esteem?

Personal Connections
Does a learner connect their learning to other aspects of their work or personal life?

Awareness of Oneself as a Learner
Does a learner recognize what they know and understand? Are they aware of their “learning style”?

Growth of Autonomy as a Learner
Is a learner more independent? Are they more willing to have opinions and take risks, to get started on new tasks with less assistance than before?

Has there been a shift in a learner’s identity as a more numerate individual?