Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mathematical Literacy

Yesterday I attended a full day of Family Math training. Myself and teachers learned how to go about hosting a family math evening. Topics covered included 'Math is Everywhere' (and it really is!), multicultural math (chisenbop, the soroban, how to measure the height of a tree with just your thumb), historical math (ancient egyptian maulitplication, Napier's bones), children's literature, as well as quilts and the underground railroad. I left feeling so inspired!

What is Mathematical Literacy?
When people think of mathematical literacy, a narrow definition tends to come to mind that solely focuses on quantity. Mathematical literacy needs to be considered more braodly in terms on an individual’s capacity to identify and understand the role that mathematics plays in the world, to make well-founded judgments, and to engage in mathematics in ways that meet the needs of that individual’s current and future life as a constructive, concerned and reflective citizen (OECD 1999).

Think of the people you see in bulk barn that have X dollars and the candy they want is X price. Many people struggle to figure out how much they can buy.

The Early Math Strategy (2003) discusses teaching and learning mathematics in Ontario. Here are some of the key points it makes:

Success in mathematics in the early grades is critical. Early mathematics understanding has a profound effect on mathematical proficiency in the later years.

Children learn mathematical understanding primarily through, "...doing, talking, reflecting, discussing, observing, investigating, listening, and reasoning" (Copley, 2000, p.29).

Young children have a natural inquisitiveness about mathematics, and teacher can build on this inquisitiveness to help students develop the positive attitidues that often occur when one understands and makes sense of a topic.

Children's prior mathematical understanding needs to be recognized, to be developped, and to be connected with school mathematics.

Numerous studies provide data to indicate that there is a positive correlation between attitude and achievement in mathematics (Dossey, Mullis, Lindquist, & Chambers, 1998).

Using chilren's literature as a starting point for a mathematics activity gives students a sense of how mathematics is connected with the world that they engage in when they read stories.

Here is a great website on early math (starting right from infants!) by PBS:

To see how children are achieving in your area on EQAO tests, please visit

Here is a riddle for you. Can you solve it?

A man buys a horse for 50 dollars. Decides he wants to sell his horse later and gets 60 dollars. He then decides to buy it back again and paid 70 dollars. However, he could no longer keep it and he sold it for 80 dollars.

Did he make money? lose money? or break even? Why?

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