Mathematics and Numeracy can be found everywhere in the world around us as they are both an important aspect of our lives. Be it a shopkeeper, a doctor, a teacher, a lawyer, a student and even an insect in nature they all use the form of mathematics. Mathematics and numeracy are often thought to be the same but are two different concepts. While numeracy and mathematics draw upon the same body of skills, numeracy is not the same as mathematics; nor is it an alternative to mathematics. In this essay, the terms of Mathematics and Numeracy will be discussed as well as their similarities and differences. Furthermore, this essay will explore an interesting and fascinating mathematical phenomenon which is all around us in nature.
Mathematics is the study of patterns and relationships. Mathematics is described as the science of space, patterns, change, relationships, number, quantity, and arrangement, whose methods involve logical reasoning and usually use the symbolic notation. By nature, mathematics is about abstract ideas and logical thinking. Maths involves a lot of symbols, patterns, numbers, formulas, rules, calculations and equations. According to the Australian Curriculum, Mathematics is divided into three strands which are number and algebra, measurement and geometry, and statistics and probability. Mathematics is generally taught in the classroom.
Numeracy involves developing the skills and confidence in mathematical formulas and determining where to apply those skills in real life situations such as home, work and social settings. Numeracy is not only determined by our mathematical skills and understandings, but the way in which we apply and process the knowledge we have learnt. The Australian Curriculum identifies the importance of numeracy as a fundamental skill for students to learn at school, and for their life beyond school as family, community and workforce members. It involves students recognising and understanding the role of mathematics in the world and having the dispositions and capacities to use mathematical knowledge and skills purposefully. We need numeracy to solve problems, make sense of time, numbers, patterns and shapes for activities such as cooking, planning the trip of holiday, shopping, budgeting and paying everyday bills.
Both mathematics and numeracy overlap each other. While mathematics and numeracy are sometimes confused with holding the same definition, they both have varied differences and are utilised in different ways of learning. Even though there are some differences there is also some similarities, in order to solve problems, they both require us to use our knowledge of numbers and number systems. Despite the similarities of the two terms however, unlike numeracy, “mathematics does not need to consider the real world as it focuses of abstract constructs and ideas regardless of their potential applications; numeracy is the application of mathematics in authentic contexts.” (Siemon et al., 2015). Spatial sense, structure and pattern, number, measurement, data argumentation, connections and exploring the world mathematically are the powerful mathematical ideas children need to become numerate. (DET, 2019, p. 41). However, Mathematics is a concept which is learned in school without thinking of real world while numeracy is the real way, we use to effectively and efficiently solve problems.
There are some numeracy examples that are used in everyday life including grocery shopping, baking, reading transport timetables, comparing and finding best products whilst shopping. Going on a holiday is another example of using numeracy. When booking a getaway there are many things that are to be taken into consideration such as the using a map to get around to places, cost of your flight ticket, comparing time differences with different countries, the amount of days that will be spent at different location, the full cost of the trip and also financially budgeting the trip from start to end. Numeracy skills is also handing whilst budgeting the expenses that will be used at home either on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis. Grocery bills, mortgage or rent bills, daily expenses, savings, electricity and phone bills are all budgeted according to each individual family’s capacity. Plenty of numeracy skills such as money, decimal points, calendar, estimating and calculations are all taken into consideration.
Mathematics is not just about numbers and the logic of reasoning. It also helps us to understand the shapes of atoms and planets. There are also lots of mathematical phenomenon in the natural world. Mathematics reveals hidden patterns that help us understand the world around us. Natural patterns include symmetries, trees, spirals, meanders, waves, foams, tessellations, cracks and stripes. The Spirals come in different types such as flat spirals and three-dimensional spirals. Fibonacci Numbers is another famous Mathematical pattern which is quite common in nature. For example, the leaf arrangements of the plants are called symmetry in mathematics. Bright, bold and beloved by bees, sunflowers boast radial symmetry and a type of numerical symmetry known as the Fibonacci sequence, which is a sequence where each number is determined by adding together the two numbers that preceded it. For example: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144 and on to infinity. Scientists and flower enthusiasts who have taken the time to count the seed spirals in a sunflower have determined that the number of spirals adds up to a Fibonacci number. This is not uncommon; many plants produce leaves, petals and seeds in the Fibonacci sequence. This is the reason why it’s so hard to find four-leaf clovers.
Honeybees have evolved over time to skilfully build hexagonal honeycomb cells. The hexagonal cells serve as storage vessels for honey, as well as homes to raise young bees. When building a honeycomb, bees must make sure they don’t waste more resources (wax) or expend more energy (honey) than necessary. This means that they need to use the least amount of wax possible to construct a comb that can store as much honey as possible. Lastly, a look at nature’s snowflake illustrates hexagonal symmetry and fractal geometry. The snowflake possesses the shape of the hexagon. In addition, the growth of a snowflake is simulated by the Koch snowflake curve.
In conclusion, Numeracy and Mathematics are equally important and go hand in hand when it comes to our day to day lives. Although they have similarities, if we take a closer look, we can also find that they have some differences. Mathematics being the body of knowledge we learn, and the numeracy being the ability and confidence to understand the context in which we apply it. Mathematics also surrounds us and can be used to explain natural phenomena’s such as the Fibonacci sequence which can be discovered in the flower head of a sunflower.