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Feature of the month | September 2011

Literacy and numeracy go hand in hand and together represent two key building blocks for success in life and at work.

A Social and Holistic Approach to Numeracy is a new website which was developed as part of a two-year project led by the Labour Education Centre in partnership with the Canadian Union of Public Employees and Workplace Education Manitoba.

Features include sample activities developed by practitioners and the team leading the project, in addition to practitioner and learner feedback on the benefits and challenges of using this approach to numeracy.

“A social and holistic approach sees numeracy as a part of life, for the whole person, within a social context,” team members say.  “It emphasizes context rather than content, processes rather than skills, change in identity not just behaviour.”

One project reference group member had nothing but positive things to say about the program.  “This approach is like our approach to literacy learning – connecting the individual learner to their community and wider world, to an economic and social context.”

Another member stated:  “What stands out for me, with this approach, is the potential to make math meaningful.  It’s fun and it works.  It’s about understanding numbers for everyday life.”

A practitioner’s sample activity using a social and holistic approach to numeracy:

“I used a newspaper subscription ad to develop an activity.  This is something I do often – use a text as a starting point for a math class. … Once I used a story about girls’/boys’ ice time at rinks around Toronto – we did all kinds of stuff on ratios.”

The project website includes an annotated list of available print and online materials in addition to other relevant resources.  An overview is located in the NALD Library at

Funding for the project was provided by the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

For more information, contact Anna Larsen, project director, Literacy and Basic Skills Program, Labour Education Centre, at 416-537-6532, extension 2204, or

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