Adult Numeracy 
Background 
Adult
Numeracy has traditionally been taught under the auspices of
adult literacy and basic education (ALBE) within Australia.
Programs are offered through a wide range of providers including
Technical and Further Education (TAFE) Institutes; communitybased
providers such as neighbourhood houses, community centres,
libraries; workplaces; and also private training providers. 
What
is Adult Numeracy? 
In
today's technological society, either as part of everyday life,
or at work or play, it is necessary to absorb, use and critically
evaluate large amounts of information, much of which is presented
in numerical or graphical form. In order to interpret this
information a range of mathematical skills is needed. 
Although
these activities vary depending on the culture and the context
in which they occur, they utilise a range of mathematical
skills which include basic number skills, spatial and graphical
concepts, use of measurement and problem solving. These skills
are all essential for participating effectively in society. 
Although
there are no universally accepted definitions of numeracy
or agreement about the ways in which numeracy differs from
mathematics, certain emphases can be noted in definitions
of numeracy. There are emphases on the practical or functional
application and use of mathematics. 
"To
be numerate is to function effectively mathematically in
one's daily life, at home and at work" (Willis, 1990). 
The
UK Cockcroft Report stated that : 
"We would wish the word
'numerate' to imply the possession of two attributes. The
first is an 'at homeness' with numbers and an ability to
make use of the mathematical skills which enable an individual
to cope with the practical demands of his everyday life .
The second is an ability to have some apprehension and understanding
of information which is presented in mathematical terms,
for instance in graphs, charts or tables or by reference
to percentage increase or decrease. Taken together these
imply that a numerate person should be expected to be able
to appreciate and understand some of the ways in which mathematics
can be used as a means of communication .... " (Paragraph
39).
"Most important of all
is the need to have sufficient confidence to make effective
use of whatever mathematical skill and understanding is possessed,
whether this be little or much" (Paragraph 34) (Cockcroft,
1982).

Definitions
imply certain attitudes as well as skills, an 'at homeness'
or 'confidence' with numbers and other maths skills. In other
words skills and knowledge can actually be put into practice.
It is clear from these definitions
that numeracy does not refer only to operating with numbers
as the word can suggest, but refers to a much wider range
of skills. It also implies a certain flexibility  dependent
on the needs and interests of the individual within the context
of the peer group, community or workplace.
In recent years there has been
much discussion and debate about the relationship between mathematics
and numeracy and to the concept of 'critical' numeracy. Betty
Johnston has argued that numeracy in fact incorporates, or
should incorporate, this critical aspect of using mathematics.
She argues that: 
"To be numerate is
more than being able to manipulate numbers, or even being
able to 'succeed' in school or university mathematics. Numeracy
is a critical awareness which builds bridges between mathematics
and the real world, with all its diversity" (Johnston,
1994).

She
continues: 
"In this sense . . . .
. . there is no particular 'level' of Mathematics associated
with it: it is as important for an engineer to be numerate
as it is for a primary school child, a parent, a car driver
or a gardener. The different contexts will require different
Mathematics to be activated and engaged in" (Johnston,
1994).

So
the view of numeracy and mathematics that has developed in
Australia is one that sees numeracy as making meaning of mathematics
and sees mathematics as a tool to be used efficiently and critically. 
