Personal numeracy standards of entrants to teacher education courses

Year: 2012

Author: Callingham, Rosemary, Hay, Ian

Type of paper: Refereed paper


There is continuing concern about prospective teachers' knowledge and understanding of mathematics in an increasingly technological world. The Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) (2011) has recognised the importance of teachers' literacy and numeracy and has set a standard for pre-service teacher education courses against which universities are expected to provide evidence. As a result, universities are increasingly attempting to measure their pre-service teacher education students' achievement in literacy and numeracy. This paper reports on the outcomes of a numeracy test which all students' undertook in their first semester of the course.
A Test of Numeracy Competency was designed for pre-service teachers in their first year of study at the University of Tasmania in 2010. The test consisted of 40 multiple choice questions, and covered mathematics content from all areas of the Australian mathematics curriculum. The test was delivered online using Qualtrics ( software to all students entering a BEd or MTeach course in 2010, including potential secondary teachers who were studying to teach all subjects, not just mathematics. Students had one hour to complete the questions, automatically timed by Qualtrics, and a score of 80 percent correct was expected.
A significant percentage of the students entering a teacher education program had gaps in their mathematical knowledge and did not achieve the required level of mastery. The test was embedded in the first year numeracy unit taken by all students. This fact provided an opportunity to consider the relationships among the assessment tasks for the unit: the test itself, Assignment 1 which involved teaching some basic mathematics to another person, and Assignment 2, which addressed an analysis of numeracy in the media. Correlations were computed between the three tasks in mathematics. The findings indicated that the three tasks were tapping the same domain but that students responded differently to the range of tasks, suggesting that the three assessments provided associated but varied information about students' numeracy. These results indicate that something different from a broad understanding of personal numeracy appeared to influence the pre-service teachers' success in this unit of study; that is, a strong basic numeracy competence may facilitate success with mathematics but it is not sufficient in itself to achieve success. The implications of the findings for pre-service teacher education will be discussed.