Numeracy is one of several categories used to measure literacy. Others include document literacy (the skills needed to understand information in various formats such as charts, graphs, forms and maps), and prose literacy (the knowledge and skills needed to understand and use information from texts including editorials, news stories, brochures and instruction manuals).
According to Statistics Canada, numeracy (or quantitative literacy) is:
"The knowledge and skills required to effectively manage the mathematical demands of diverse situations.”
This includes such skills as calculating a tip at a restaurant, balancing a bank account, or determining the amount of interest on a loan from an advertisement.
Numeracy is an essential part of what many people consider “basic literacy,” and as such it is instrumental to developing a more sophisticated set of literacy skills.
Most Canadians understand the role that literacy plays in our social and economic prosperity; after all, we live in one of the most highly educated populations in the world.
However, as this numeracy map of Canada shows, we may not be as literate as we think. According to the 2003 International Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (IALSS), 55 percent of adult Canadians (those 16 and over) had low levels of numeracy—with some provinces having more than 65 percent.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines five levels of literacy; Level 1 being the lowest, Level 5 being highest.
A Level 2 on the numeracy scale denotes someone who is able to deal with simple, straightforward material, but “their poor literacy makes it hard to conquer challenges such as learning new job skills.”
Adults who fall into this category have the skills to get by on a day-to-day basis, but are likely unprepared for the challenges posed by a rapidly changing society which demands a greater understating of technology.
With more than half of adults in Canada having low numeracy levels, CCL believes this should be a cause for concern.