Why does Math #Literacy Matter?
Math is among the least discussed topics in general conversation.
"A meaningful conversation about math is a topic that we all must engage in if we plan to improve skills, opportunities, and our economy."~ LaToniya A. Jones, Founder of P.O.W.E.R. Organization
Math literacy levels the academic, social, and professional playgrounds.
Math literacy is built through "more equal educational opportunities".
Literacy is important in all situations. While math is usually associated with numeracy (how numbers are used), a basic understanding of math terms can prevent serious mistakes and help individuals communicate tasks, forecast outcomes, and function as informed/productive citizens… throughout life. Beyond the math terms it's important that students can define, solve, and explain problems succinctly through developing their math literacy skills.
Communication: A large percentage of students in K-12 schools and parents would rather skip a story (word) problem or rationalize their way out of it than to face the fact that they don’t understand the term. When they understand the terms better, they find the scenarios useful and successfully work through the tasks a little at a time. Some students and even business professionals find it challenging to effectively communicate their ideas about basic computation in daily life occurrences with “math terms”. Most people are more comfortable either sketching their thoughts out or substituting terms for the acceptable (more accurate) version of what they are trying to convey.
Why is it acceptable/overlooked when:
- Someone misspells math terms like fourty for forty?
- The terms “too, two, to; fore, four, for; sum, some“ (aka homonyms - terms that sound the same but are spelled differently) are used?
- Gives a vague response or can't give a visual account (equation, model, etc.) of the problem they are solving/explaining?
Forecasting Outcomes: Imagine reading the newspaper, magazines, books or dictionaries with very important terms or numerical terms… misused or presented vaguely. Percentages listed without the sample size can be misleading and cause readers to form opinions without enough background information. Based on the source, we tend to consider it a typographical error. But, is it really? Having enough information available is important to understanding the situation and also serves as a model for future use.
Informed/Productive Citizens: Math literacy is also important in our personal lives. When we understand the math terms (concepts) we are in a great position to stretch our dollars, make reasonable decisions about products and services we select, and even compare which candidates will be the best for our communities and governments. When we can think mathematically we save time and operate with more accuracy (even in our educated guesses).
The absence of a strong sense of math literacy can land us all in the lowest median income positions (for life) versus becoming producers and owners of the businesses and services we enjoy providing. It's true that we must all start somewhere, but growth is essential for life.
Let's start today, moving forward and helping others do the same.
Can you recommend any resources, strategies, or habits that can improve math literacy?
Here are a few resources to stop the cycle of ugly Math Illiteracy Statistics.
- Google the term or concept if you don't understand it (rather than ignoring it or misusing it).
- Search the glossary of terms associated with a document or career field.
- Ask someone for clarification before proceeding incorrectly.
- Make sure that you learn and can explain a situation/problem in at least two different ways so that others can understand it.
- Develop a solid understanding of math concepts as they are introduced so that you don't need to play catch up in remedial math coursework as an adult.
- Read Radical Equations: Math Literacy and Civil Rights by Bob Moses (The Algebra Project) or at least a review of the book.
- Dr. Deborah Lowenberg Ball, Dean of Education at the University of Michigan reminds us that by giving students a problem, letting them solve it, then explaining how they solved it puts them in the habit of thinking mathematically (logically). Read more about why "Being literate in math is vital to participating in life. It's hugely the gatekeeper to many careers".
Have you noticed any math terms used incorrectly?
How important is it that we can solve and explain our rationale for solutions?
What's your opinion about math literacy?
Does math literacy matter to you?
P.O.W.E.R. Org is a Change Agent for Math Literacy! We believe that we all can do a small part to erase math innumeracy and illiteracy. Join us! Leave a comment and share this link to continue the conversation.