Monday, 6 June 2016

The Numeracy Project - Misconceptions

Last week I chatted with Ian Stevens about some of the misconceptions still following the NZ Numeracy Project (see podcast link below). Ian Stevens has worked in education his whole working life and he led the Numeracy Project in its final two years.

I wish I had known some of the information Ian shared with me back when I was teaching. The biggest take-away for me from our conversation was that the Numeracy Development Project was to be a teacher development project rather than a classroom resource. The intention was to develop teachers' awareness of the various mental strategies that students may already be using and could be using, as well as to encourage critical thinking, communication and problem solving in maths.

In my opinion we have gotten a bit 'bogged down' with working through strategies and stressing about whether students know all stage 6 strategies for example. You can't blame teachers for that though, afterall, I recall a time when we were required to have the 'pink book' out on the page we were teaching from and to use the examples and equipment in the book. This was NOT the intention. The intention was for a teacher to understand the concept/strategy and to get an idea of the kind of equipment, games and examples that would help students learn and understand key ideas.

How many schools use the NumPA test yearly or bi-yearly? Are you aware that an intention of that test was to develop teachers' understanding of how to listen to and watch students in order to understand their current thinking, level of knowledge and what strategies they are using to solve problems. The test was designed firstly with professional development purposes in mind as well as an assessment tool.

Before the Numeracy Project was rolled out in NZ schools, a common theme in classrooms was that teachers taught a prescribed formulaic procedure and students either followed that without much thought or they didn't......they solved the problem in their own way and this was often not evident to the teacher. How many adults do you know that say "I could work out the maths problems when I was at school but the teacher always wanted me to do it their way".

Ian spoke about the importance of the wording in both the curriculum and in the Numeracy Project books when understanding the intention of the Numeracy Project.
"By studying mathematics and statistics, students develop the ability to think creatively, critically, strategically and logically. They learn to structure and to organise, to carry out procedures flexibly and accurately, to process and communicate information, and to enjoy intellectual challenge. The New Zealand Curriculum, page 26.

It might be helpful to go back and read the wording in Book 3, Getting Started.

So, are you supposed to teach every strategy?
What about vertical alignment?

Listen to the podcast to hear Ian's thoughts on this and more.
Link here:
Mathematically Speaking with Mandy - Numeracy Development Project


  1. I just discovered your podcast. Absolute gold! Your talk with Ian answers many questions teachers have had about NumP.

    1. That's fantastic and exactly what we hoped for. I wish I had known this when I was teaching...he makes it so clear that it's the overall picture/key concepts and teacher understanding that's so important. Please share as I'm sure others will also find his really useful.

    2. Well here it is 2019 and I have just listened to this.
      Like Mr D in 2016 I thought it was GOLD Mandy.
      The whole thing about the procedural learning of algorithms is ok, but some understanding is important first etc.
      Mr C