A new literacies approach to academic numeracy practices in higher education in South Africa

Journal Article


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Journal Title

Literacy and Numeracy studies

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Volume Title

UTS ePress


University of Cape Town

This paper explores the terms 'mathematical literacy', 'quantitative literacy' and 'numeracy', in order to gain theoretical clarity on their meanings and the ways in which they are used. The teaching-learning situation and the learner are constructed in particular ways by these terms, and different understandings of these terms may reflect the values and rationales of various stakeholders who promote them. We propose the term 'academic numeracy practices' in order to emphasise the socially situated nature of all practices, to avoid reifying 'numeracy' into a set of discrete skills that an individual can either possess or lack, and to avoid extending the characteristics of one mode (namely, writing) to other modes. In arguing for the new term, we draw on the theoretical orientation of New Literacies Studies and multimodality. We exemplify our position by looking at charts as conventionalised practice in Higher Education in South Africa, focusing on BMI charts in the Health Sciences.

This is a copy of a work which has been published in a UTS ePRESS journal: Literacy and Numeracy studies, Volume16 available at: http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/journals/index.php/lnj/article/view/1948.