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Inside Teaching : August 2010
www.atra.edu.au | firstname.lastname@example.org CURRICULUM & ASSESSMENT 33 that our individual students bring with them to other lessons, about science, say, or health, technology and so on, and we need to be fexible enough to focus on teaching and learning the numeracy tools, should that be necessary, as well as covering the content of our learning area. If students don’t have the numeracy tools that enable access to the content of all subjects and learning areas, they’ll struggle with schooling. The aim is for students to have these tools by the end of about Year 6, so that in subsequent years they can apply them in an increasingly broader range of contexts. Mathematical numeracy dominates the NAPLAN numeracy tests. In the frst place, this is because it’s seen to be the most important of the three numeracy dimensions, but secondly it’s because the nature of the test itself isn’t conducive to students writing and justifying choices of strategy or approach determined by context. Ideally, a pen and paper numeracy test would be one with situations drawn from other learning areas where students are asked: (1) Do you think some maths would help here? Why? (2) Which maths would you use and why? (3) Apply the maths you’ve chosen. Do you think it helped in this context or might some other maths have been better? Why or why not? What does this mean for testing? Okay, it’s diffcult to assess or determine numerate capabilities through a pen and paper test, especially one titled ‘numeracy test.’ The writers of the NAPLAN numeracy tests attempt to do this for some questions by describing hypothetical contexts, and while these contexts demand some higher-order skills and a certain level of literacy, they are limited in their capacity to assess the reasoning that is part of strategic and contextual numeracy, since students are required primarily to tick the box containing the correct answer. They are at no time required to indicate the reasoning they used in obtaining a solution. I’m hoping that ACARA will use short-answer questions – or even