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The Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC defines numeracy as follows:

Numeracy is the ability to access, use, interpret, and communicate mathematical information and ideas, in order to engage in and manage the mathematical demands of a range of situations in adult life. 

Numerate behavior involves:

managing a situation or solving a problem in a real context

everyday life



further learning

by responding

identifying or locating

acting upon


communicating about

to information about mathematical ideas

quantity and number

dimension and shape

pattern and relationships

data and chance


that is represented in a range of ways

objects and pictures

numbers and symbols


diagrams and maps




and requires activation of a range of enabling knowledge, behaviors, and processes.

mathematical knowledge and understanding

mathematical problem-solving skills

literacy skills

beliefs and attitudes.

Source: Gal, I., van Groenestijn, M., Manly, M., Schmitt, M.J., and Tout, D. (1999). Adult Literacy and Lifeskills Survey Numeracy Framework Working Draft. Ottawa: Statistics Canada.

The Components of Numeracy (2006) Lynda Ginsburg, Myrna Manly, and Mary Jane Schmitt

What is the nature of the components specific to adult numeracy that are inherent in numeracy practice and essential to frame a vision that can be used to inform and guide instructional practice, further research, and assessment development? That is the question Lynda Ginsburg, Myrna Manly, and Mary Jane Schmitt focused on as they considered the nature of numeracy. Their study highlights a critical area of adult education that has been largely ignored, under-funded, and under-studied. Their results can serve as a conceptual framework within which to situate research into both adult numeracy development and recommendations for instructional practices.

The Inclusion of Numeracy in Adult Basic Education (2002) - Dave Tout and Mary Jane Schmitt

Numeracy, as defined in this paper, should be viewed as part of the core skill base of any literate individual. Without the emphasis on numeracy as a core essential skill, one that is critical for adults in society, ABE will be unable to fulfill its promise as a second chance for all the adults who choose to participate.

Adult Learners’ Reported Use of Mathematics in Their Current and Future Lives (2021)

In this 2021 qualitative research study commissioned by the SABES Mathematics and Adult Numeracy Curriculum and Instruction PD Center, project evaluators Lynda Ginsburg and Sally Waldron document findings from their interviews with adult learners in Massachusetts about their use of mathematics in their previous and current jobs, and in their everyday lives. Interviewees were also asked how they might use math for their future endeavors. The purpose of this exploratory study is to inform future professional development initiatives for adult education math teachers and improve curricula and materials development used by adults learning math.

The Importance of Insuring Access to Quality Mathematics Education for Students At Risk of Leaving School and Adults and Young Adults Who Have Left the K-12 System (2006) This letter was sent to the National Mathematics Advisory Panel advocating for a focus on "the mathematics learning of those students... at risk of... dropping out or being pushed out" and for addressing "the mathematical needs of people who are no longer in the K-12 system but who are at risk because of their lack of math knowledge."

Working Conference on Adult Mathematical Literacy (March 1994)

Adult Numeracy Instruction: A New Approach (December 1994)

In addition to the Math Practitioner, ANN members have impacted the field of adult numeracy through articles, essays, & reports for national journals, regional newsletters and everything in between.

These works have been collected and organized into the categories below:

Numeracy, Digital Resiliency, and Habits of Mind (2023) Numeracy and mathematics educator and advocate, Cynthia Bell, writing for the National Coalition for Literacy on the connections between digital resiliency and numeracy .

Math & Democracy: The Case for Quantitative LiteracyA collection of essays and articles, edited by Lynn Arther Steen. 

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