Literacy and Numeracy Demands Essay

September 21, 2021 by Essay Writer


In the context of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), seven main competencies or capabilities for students are crucial, with much attention dedicated towards numeracy and literacy. Most notably, literacy is no longer reviewed as a mere capability of reading and writing. Instead, it implies the ability to think critically, solve problems, and collaborate with others.

Moreover, the notion of subject-specific literacy emerged as a response to a need for clearly stating the numeracy and literacy demands for each subject. Similarly, the concept of numeracy in the contemporary world implies that students are able to solve problems in their daily lives using mathematical skills, which is beyond one’s ability to solve problems in a classroom. This paper aims to examine the subject-specific numeracies and literacies using examples from curriculums developed for Australian students.

Notions of Literacy and Numeracy

The main focus of the current approach to student education is to ensure that their transition from school life to professional one is successful, which implies adequate numeracy and literacy capabilities. Understanding the following concepts is critical for gaining an adequate comprehension of subject-specific numeracies and literacies. Firstly, the notion of register refers to the context of a situation and is used when describing the functional model of language (Derewianka & Jones, 2016).

The latter concept implies that the context of events changes the language used, and the main elemnts of the functional model of language are field, tenor and mode. For example, in the context of history and social science (HASS), the field is either the syllabus or a particular topic, tenors are students and teachers, and modes are means of education or communication.

Genre is used to describe the elemnts of communication channels or types, usually the types of texts and specific language, which emerged within a specific community (Derewianka & Jones, 2016). Discourse is another crucial concept, which is explained by Gee (2003) as a language expectation of a specific subject. Students and teachers use these language expectations or discourses, to coordinate, and they set the subject-specific expectations of literacy.

Gee (2003) highlights the two types of discourses, bid D, which is a primary discourse is the type of communication that people use in their day to day lives. However, communication is only a part of the big D discourse becuase it also incorporates the ways in which people think and perform tasks. Gee (2003) also describes small D, which is language specific to a particular community, which may be unfamiliar to outsiders. Therefore, based on the big D and small D concepts, it can be argued that literacy and numeracy demands require students to achieve an adequate understanding of the language and particular concepts used within a specific subject, for example, HASS or Geography in particular.

The literacy process of comprehending texts is connected to the functional model of language and implies listening, reading, analysing, and interpreting information. In general, the tern literacy is defined by ACARA (2018) as “listening to, reading, viewing, speaking, writing and creating oral, print, visual and digital texts, and using and modifying language for different purposes in a range of contexts” (para. 5).

Literacy knowledge of composing texts is the ability of students to create oral, digital, or visual texts for a specific purpose. Literacy knowledge, necessary to boh compose and comprehend texts is connected to the student’s ability to read, listen, and write texts, modifying the language and using their understanding of specific text structures, for example, reports. Therefore, contemporary curriculum demands emphasise the fact that literacy goes beyond the ability of a student to read or write.

Numeracy capability in terms of the elements of numeracy (ACARA) and the contemporary numeracy requirements suggest that students should be able to interpret data presented as raw information, understand the percentages and averages within a specific context, and interpret graphs or tables (Goos, Geiger, Doel, Forgasz, & Bennison, 2019). Geiger, Goos, and Forgasz (2015) point out the need to develop a comprehension of how to evaluate statistical data, which is crucial for mathematical literacy and for improving the critical thinking skills of students. This factor presents the connection between literacy and numeracy since mathematical literacy allows students to build adequate arguments, which will support their ideas.

In general, numeracy is a notion that explains the educational process through which students learn how to solve problems and use numbers. The 21st century model of numeracy described by Goos et al., (2019) is “the capacity to deal with quantitative aspects of life, and proposed that its elements included: confidence with mathematics; appreciation of the nature and history of mathematics and its significance for understanding issues in the public realm; logical thinking and decision-making” (p. 10). Therefore, students should be able to interpret different types of forms of numerical data as the primary goal of developing subject-specific numeracy.

Numeracy, in general, is a new concept, first introduced in and according to Goose, Dole, and Geiger (2012), it was first introduced in 1959 by the government of the United Kingdom as a concept similar to literacy, but numeracy involved quantitative thinking. In this context, it is essential to understand that subject-specific numeracies and literacies refer to the explicit instructions provided by a teacher to students.

Literacy and Numeracy in the Context of HASS

In general, the curriculum developed for Australian schools aims to support the diverse community of learners and clearly outline the subject-specific numeracies and literacies. Next, using the Content Description Foundation for Year 6 students, this paper will outline the numeracy and literacy skills necessary to master history and social science or HASS. The Content-Description or Learning Outcome places the following demands for literacy on students – “interpret data and information displayed in a range of formats to identify, describe and compare distributions, patterns and trends, and to infer relationships” as one of the learning outcomes (HASS, n.d., para. 10).

In this context, the literacy and numeracy requirements for students would imply the ability to understand the subject’s language, read and comprehend multimodal texts, understand the structure of historical texts and different types of information presentation. Additionally, students would have to understand the visual elements used within the subject and interpret them.

Since the chosen Content Description Foundation is “Analysing”, the ability to interpret data is essential, which implies a focus on students’ numeracy skills. The learning outcome requires them to interpret numerical data displayed in different forms, for instance, as tables or graphs. In the context of history, students should be able to interpret information regarding patterns and relationships using quantitative data. Finally, they should be able to use estimations and calculations for data analysis. This can be achieved by encouraging students to collect data and use their knowledge to analyse and interpret it.

The main focus of an educator should be on ensuring that students know and understand the demands of literacy and numeracy for the subject of History during Year 6. The standards of the functional language model should be applied to achieve this, which implies using communication types and language suitable for the chosen subject, which will help familiarise students with the main concepts and text structures.

Fang and Schleppegrell (2010) suggest using functional language analysis to promote better student outcomes, which can be used for both spoken and written text. This approach helps analyse secondary sources and using language as the primary source of understanding the meaning and context of information. By teaching the students using the functional model approach, one will be able to help them understand language that is used in HASS subjects and recognise it in different texts. In particular, the literacy domain requires an understanding of grammar, texts, visuals, and word knowledge (ACARA, n.d.).


Overall, this paper focused on examining the notions of literacy and numeracy and subject-specific literacies and numeracies. It is evident that the modern-day curriculum emphasises the need of students to develop capabilities that will allow them to think critically, collaborate with others, and use quantitative skills in their day to day lives. Therefore, subject-specific numeracies and literacies are connected to the notion of discourse and imply the need to focus on outlining requirements for a particular subject that will help students succeed when learning it and when applying the knowledge in their daily life. This paper highlights the literacy and numeracy outlined in the HASS curriculum in Australia.


ACARA. (n.d.). Literacy. Web.

Derewianka, B., & Jones, P. (2016). Teaching language in context (2nd ed.). South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Fang, Z., & Schleppegrell, M. J. (2010). Disciplinary literacies across content areas: Supporting secondary reading through them for the learning areas. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 53(7), 587-597. Web.

Gee, J. P. (2003). Literacy and social minds. In G. Bull, & M. Anstey (Eds.), The literacy lexicon (2nd ed.) (pp. 3-14). Frenchs Forest, NSW: Pearson.

Geiger, V., Goos, M., & Forgasz, H. (2015). A rich interpretation of numeracy for the 21st century: A survey of the state of the field. ZDM, 47(4), 531–548. Web.

Goos, M., Dole, S., & Geiger, V. (2012). Auditing the numeracy demands of the Australian curriculum. In J. Dindyal, L. Chen, & S. F. Ng (Eds.), Mathematics education: Expanding horizons (Proceedings of the 35th annual conference of the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia) (pp. 314-321). Singapore: MERGA.

Goos, M., Geiger, V., Doel, S., Forgasz, H., & Bennison, A. (2019). Numeracy across the curriculum: Research-based strategies for enhancing teaching and learning. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.

HASS. (n.d.). Web.

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