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Numeracy is thinking well in quantitative contexts

Numeracy

The ability to think well in quantitative contexts is required for personal, academic, workplace and professional success today.

People with strong numeracy skill apply their critical thinking to solve quantitative reasoning problems. Being better able to analyze and interpret quantitative information, they can draw more accurate conclusions.  They can explain how they reached those judgments.  And, considering what the quantitative information tells us, they can better evaluate the claims others may make.

What is Numeracy?

Numeracy is simply the application of critical thinking skills like analysis and interpretation, along with mathematical basics, like algebra, to quantitative information. More than being able to compute a solution to a mathematical equation, numeracy includes the understanding of how quantitative information is gathered, manipulated, represented, and communicated verbally and visually, such as in texts, graphs, charts, tables and diagrams. Another name for numeracy is “Quantitative Reasoning.”    

       An example: engaging numeracy skill to analyze TV news

Where is the Numeracy in Everyday Life?

Our complex culture offers many opportunities to apply our numeracy skills. Quantitative information is everywhere. 

  • Consumers can apply numeracy skills to understand better the quantitative information found on food packaging and pricing.
  • Saving money by comparison shopping is all about trying to find the best value.  To be good at that demands that we apply our numeracy skills.  
  • Everyone who works in an office where management information comes in part through charts and graphs have ample opportunities to apply numeracy skills. Spreadsheets, bank statements, phone bills, investment portfolio reports, the specifications on electronic goods and even the gas mileage and other data on the car’s digital dashboard all offer us valuable knowledge in the form of quantitative information. 

Numeracy, applying critical thinking to quantitative information, is essential in today’s world.

Where is the Numeracy in Professional Life?

There is no professional field or academic discipline, including the arts and humanities, which does not rely at least in part on quantitative information. 

  • Some fields, like the STEM disciplines, and all the professions from agriculture and aerospace, to banking, engineering, health care, manufacturing, shipping, and transportation rely very heavily on scientific, mathematical, or technological information. For the tens of millions who work in these professional fields, numeracy is vitally important.  
  • Specific examples are too numerous to mention.  Depending on the field, professionals may ask themselves questions like these: What is the rate of return on this investment? How strong must these beams be to hold up this bridge?  How many BTUs must the furnace produce to properly heat this new house? What is the proper dosage of this medicine for this patient?  How much postage do we need to ship this package?

As mundane as these questions may seem, they are all very important to the professionals and their clients.  They all require the application of critical thinking, along with specific knowledge of the professional field and some basic mathematics, to solve problems and to make decisions involving quantitative information. They all require numeracy.

Educators and employers prize the ability to think critically in ambiguous contexts, precise contexts and in quantitative contexts. 

To fully understand strengths and weakness in an individual's critical thinking skills requires the assessment of numeracy as well as the traditional metrics (analysis, inference, evaluation, deduction, induction and others).  All Insight Assessment testing tools provide this comprehensive measurement of critical thinking strength.

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