Academic journal article Australian Mathematics Teacher

Numeracy for What's in the News and Building an Expressway

Academic journal article Australian Mathematics Teacher

Numeracy for What's in the News and Building an Expressway

Article excerpt


My school is Quorn Area School, which is situated around 40 kms from a main town centre and approximately 400 kms north east of Adelaide. The school has approximately 280 students catering for Reception to Year 12 and is structured around a primary (Reception-Year 5) and a middle years section (Years 6-10) on the same campus. A separate senior section houses the Seniors (Years 11-12 consisting of 24 students) in a building away from the main teaching areas but within the same grounds. In the middle school, there are approximately 100 students.

There is a sense of community about the school with parent brochures at the front desk and information about the town pinned to school noticeboards at the front entrance.


In my teacher education degree I specialised in Middle Years of Schooling, majoring in Science and Society and Environment. Before studying to become a teacher I had spent several years working in the retail industry. I had been at the school for one full year when the DECS Numeracy in the Learning Areas Project started. This was my second year of teaching and the beginning of my second year at the school. During the project year I taught Years 6-9 Science, Year 10 English, Year 9 Mathematics, and Years 8-9 Society and Environment.

My classroom is a small demountable building with a non-networked computer on one table and the students' desks arranged in various groupings (designed by the students themselves). My classroom is the only room within the middle years' classrooms equipped with an interactive white board.

School visit: Round 1

Planning and preparation

My first focus on numeracy was through a Year 8/9 English unit that involved print newspapers. I wanted to integrate numeracy skills into lessons that typically were not seen to be numeracy "friendly", so I decided English would be a good place to start. I planned to cover amongst other things: Golden ratios in advertising; costing calculations in classified advertisements; and co-ordinates in World news. Whilst constructing my weekly planning document, I added an extra column entitled "What is the numeracy?" so that this would be a specific focus during the English lessons.

In an earlier task completed before the researchers' visit, students had explored golden rectangles (rectangles in the golden ratio of 1:1.618 ...) and had then applied this learning to newspapers to determining whether any of the advertisements or photographs were golden rectangles. This activity generated discussion about whether golden rectangles may have been subversively used by newspaper designers to draw the reader's eye to particular parts of a newspaper.

I had also followed up the ratio aspect of the Newspapers unit when the students were on camp. In this case the students were mixing cordial with water in a dispenser while discussing the ratio of the two measures. I was pleased that the students had made a "real" connection to ratio from our earlier classroom discussion.

Another planned activity in the English unit (and also the lesson for the researchers' first visit) was for students to determine the percentage of different forms of "news" in a newspaper, that is, the component elements of a newspaper in terms of types of reports (sports, local news, world news, special interest, weather, and so on). The aim here was to develop a basis for students developing their own newspapers and thinking about the balance of material in a newspaper. I was using this context for teaching students about text types and intended that when the students' created the class newspaper that it would contain a variety of text types. It was intended that this publication would take an authentic approach that required students to write within these different styles.

A further planned dimension to the unit was a lesson on coordinates as students read the world news stories and identified the place in which the news had occurred on a large map of the world. …

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