A Social and Holistic Approach to Numeracy
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The Project

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

o	At the Summative Forum, Tom presents certificates to the Selkirk learners for their contributions to the project.
At the Summative Forum, Tom presents certificates to the Selkirk learners for their contributions to the project.

This website was prepared as part of a two-year project (2009-2011): “Numeracy at Work: A Social and Holistic Approach to Math as an Essential Skill.” Funded by the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada), the project was led by the Labour Education Centre in partnership with the Canadian Union of Public Employees and Workplace Education Manitoba.

In three provinces in Canada, pilot sites practised the ideas and concepts outlined by Tom Ciancone, Joy Lehmann and Flora Hood in the publication, Beyond Worksheets: A Social and Holistic Approach to Numeracy (Metro Toronto Movement for Literacy, 2007).

The project field-tested the development and integration of a social and holistic approach to numeracy learning into workplace and workforce literacy programs in British Columbia, Ontario and Manitoba. Approximately 30 adult educators participated in two full-day workshops. The modules delivered in the workshops included

  • an introduction to a social and holistic approach to numeracy
  • ways of conducting initial assessment
  • program planning and resources

Numeracy at Work Workshops - Facilitators’ Notes and Handouts (PDF 1MB - 46 pages)

Practicum sessions took place after each module and the educators tried out the approach with learners. A ‘summative forum’ brought together educators and learners from pilot sites to share their field test experiences with one another and to provide in-depth feedback on the approach.

Project Report (PDF 4.61MB - 20 pages)

The photos and most of the video clips on the website are drawn from the project’s forum and workshops.

Project Partners

The Labour Education Centre (LEC) is the education project of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council. Recognized as an innovator by union and adult educators, community-based trainers, and governments, LEC combines direct delivery of employment and literacy programs and services to employed and unemployed workers, with capacity-building projects and educational resources for local, provincial and national unions and labour bodies.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has a national literacy program and works in partnership with governments, employers, educators and other unions to develop workplace-based education programs that address the needs of workers in health care, education, municipalities, childcare, transportation, communications, airlines, emergency services, and other public services.

Workplace Education Manitoba (WEM) partners with private and public sector organizations of all sizes, in all sectors and in all areas of the province in both urban and rural workplaces. WEM provides Essential Skills consultation, assessment and co-funded workplace training partnerships and works with a wide variety of industries including agriculture, aerospace, mining, garment, manufacturing, construction, retail, transportation, and health care.

The partner organizations work to transform literacy education into a more holistic learning process, not only for “reading the word, but also reading the world.”


Project team: Joy Lehmann, Tom Ciancone, Wendy Tanner, Anna Larsen

Project Reference Group: Sylvia Sioufi (CUPE), Sandi Howell (WEM), Jojo Geronimo (LEC), Pat Nutter (Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators), Kate Nonesuch (numeracy practitioner-researcher), Tracy Defoe (workplace practitioner-researcher)

Project Evaluator: Sue Folinsbee

Video clips: Tracey Mollins; Glen Richards (indignant EYE productions): Schema of Learning, Task Process Cycle, Jigsaw, Ripple

Resources: St. Christopher House Adult Literacy Program for their generosity in sharing numeracy resources for the project workshops

This project was funded by the Government of Canada's Office of Literacy and Essential Skills.