What is Balanced Numeracy?


Balanced numeracy is a framework that incorporates a diverse range of organizational structures, assessments and instructional practices that are intentional and responsive to students and curriculum. Balanced numeracy provides opportunities for students to uncover, construct, and apply mathematical understandings.

What is numeracy?

"Numeracy is the ability, willingness, and perseverance to interpret and apply mathematical understanding to solve problems in contextualized situations, and to analyze and communicate these solutions in ways relevant to the given context.”

Graduation Numeracy Assessment Design Specifications


“Numeracy is the ability to understand and apply mathematical concepts, processes and skills to solve problems in a variety of contexts.”

BC Curriculum Website

What is the difference between numeracy and mathematics?

Mathematics is the study of number, shape, space and pattern and other related topics. Pure mathematics involves formal and abstract representations of ideas.

Numeracy is the interpretation or application of mathematical ideas to solve problems and understand a range of contexts and disciplines. Being numerate goes beyond working with numbers but encompasses the vast range of mathematical ideas and competencies that can be used to understand the world around us.

Numeracy is not mathematics. It is something different. Instead of diving deeper into the formal and abstract world of mathematics, learning more mathematics, and become more fluent with mathematics, numeracy fosters the understanding and application of our mathematical knowledge in a quantitative sense. Unlike the field of mathematics, which continues to expand, the mathematics needed by a numerate individual is relatively finite. That is, numeracy isn’t about being able to flexibly use all of mathematics to deal with “life’s diverse contexts and situations”, but rather to flexibly draw on that subset of mathematics that is most useful in dealing with these “diverse contexts and situations.” (Liljedahl & Liu, 2013, p. 35)

Liljedahll, P. & Liu, M. (2013). Numeracy. Vector 54(2), 34-39.

What are the parallels between balanced numeracy and balanced literacy?

Inspired by the research-based balanced literacy framework, we have drawn parallels to what a balanced numeracy approach could be. This comparison chart is our collective brainstorming, and is by no means exhaustive.

Balanced Literacy and Numeracy.pdf