Monday 6 October 2014

Thoughts on numeracy 'in the real world'

Several weeks ago I asked this question: How do you write one-half as a ratio?  It started a few people journeying into the world of fractions and ratios.

Although it appears easy, it isn't.  Have a think about it, and most of all, 'prove' your answer, no matter how sure you are or how simple you think it is (no, it is not 1:2).

I have been delivering workshops and I have asked all the participants across the country  the same question.

They all all struggle initially, and finally crack it.  But here is where its interesting.  They all think its easy and yell out the 'answer' 1:2.  It isn't 1:2 and its isn't 2:1.

Here is the second interesting thing.  Before I give the question the groups tell me how important ratios are and how they use them almost every day in real world tasks.

They must be wrong, because they all hold the wrong beliefs around ratios, regarding how they work and what they represent. They do not have a conceptual understanding of ratios and therefore have not been directly using them in any of the examples given.

Are we as tutors in danger of mythologizing some aspects of numeracy?  I believe we are.

We definitely need strong numeracy skills, and more than ever, but do we really recognize where it is hiding in our lives?

Food for thought.

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