III. General Information
For the purposes of this discussion, numeracy may be defined as the ability to use mathematics at a level and in a manner appropriate to good citizenship and to vocational fitness. Mathematics deals with quantity and form, with measurement, structures, and relations, and encompasses a richer intellectual domain than just the utilitarian skills of numerical computation. It is as a mode of thinking, no less than as a collection of useful techniques, that it justifies its place in any well-rounded curriculum.
Numeracy, in the sense adopted here, is an essential attribute of the informed and responsible citizen. A correct understanding of the proper use of numbers is necessary in a culture in which information routinely comes in numeric form and significant decisions of social policy often have quantification at their base. Without the ability to comprehend the use of quantitative data, and to detect instances of misuse, we may have to forego opportunities for independent judgment.
Numeracy, more generally, enforces an accuracy and precision of procedure and thought that is valuable to all educated persons. As a mode of conceptualization of thought, it should be part of the mental apparatus of all graduating students. While a grasp of the nature and principles of mathematical forms of inquiry is essential to an understanding of scientific thought, it can be of benefit in other areas of intellectual activity. Opportunities for fostering numeracy exist in more disciplines than those traditionally requiring a substantial knowledge of mathematics. A recognition that numeracy, in association with literacy, forms the foundation of most if not all of the other learning objectives, should result in greater exploitation of those opportunities than in their avoidance.