Unit 2: Understanding the Importance of Mathematical Literacy


Welcome to Unit 2!

In order to understand the importance of Math Literacy, we must also understand the ways in which mathematical tasks are connected to assessment. This unit works to explore the connections between teaching, learning, and assessment in a way that makes sense of mathematical literacy. Additionally, this unit will look to explore how choosing the right task will help to more clearly identify the assessment necessary for the task.

What is Teaching? What is Learning?

An important understanding that all teachers should have is of the differences between teaching and learning. As far as teaching goes, teachers know what they taught in a lesson. They know the content they covered, the instructional strategies they used, and the methods of delivery. What is often unknown is what was actually learned. Each individual student comes out of the same lesson with a very different understanding and connection to the content covered. This is based on many different characteristics of the learner, including their predisposition to the material, learning style, their interaction with the content, and the deliver style of the lesson as well. In order to see what a student understands in mathematics, it is necessary to reveal this information through assessment. To truly understand how mathematically literate our students are we need appropriate assessments the truly look to make sense of the students' learning.

In the past, often learning is not revealed in assessment. Many teachers have assessments that work in in two ways. One way is that students would replicate the teachers answers. The other way is that they choose not to answer at all, at risk of getting the answer as what they perceive is "wrong." The view of assessment as question and response needs to be broken in order for us to truly see how mathematically literate our students are. Assessment must become the exchange of information. On the one hand, students are looking to show what they know, understand, and what skills they possess. Where as, on the other hand, teachers are attempting at communicating what is important mathematics and necessary understandings for the students to hold. This form of assessment must be viewed as a part of instruction, deeply embedded in the content, processes, skills, and understandings. Many informal dialogues and observations are not viewed as forms of assessment, but rather tests and assignments are viewed as assessing. However, assessment is much more than one assignment. Teachers are continually assessing in many ways: observing a student working on a project, engaging students in a classroom discourse, o reven talking to a student individually about their performance. These observational assessments provide great insights into the understandings and skills that each student possesses. Additionally, these informal observations can help to make sense of assessments later on, in terms of interpreting what the student has learned.