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Numeracy Policy

Purposes of our whole school Numeracy Policy:

  • to secure high standards in numeracy across the school
  • to set out the school’s agreed approach to the teaching of  numeracy skills
  • to record methods, vocabulary and notation that have been agreed

Numeracy is…

  • much more than just knowing about numbers and number operations.  It requires practical understanding and encourages the inclination to problem solve.  Numeracy develops and enhances an analytical approach in dealing with measurement and handling data.

General Guidelines:

  • Mental arithmetic should be recommended as a first resort. Teachers are encouraged to seek and compare a range of calculation methods, by asking students how they worked out a calculation and insisting everyone listens and responds positively to the responses.
  • As a result of the primary Numeracy initiative students are far more confident in carrying out calculations mentally and should be encouraged to continue and develop these skills in KS3 and throughout KS4 and beyond.
  • Students should be helped to develop their own methods of calculation, rather than be taught different set procedures.
  • Students are expected to have their own calculator, pair of compasses and protractor.

Using and Applying Mathematics

In ‘Using and Applying mathematics’ to solve problems, students use a variety of thinking skills which should be transferable to other subject areas. These include:

  • breaking the problem down into more manageable parts.
  • logical deduction
  • hypothesising
  • predicting and testing.


  • Use of calculators allows freedom from repetitive difficult calculations.  Pupils should have open access to calculators (preferably their own) but be encouraged to use them sensibly e.g. not for working out simple calculations.
  • It is good practice to estimate answers before using a calculator and always to look critically at the calculator’s answer.
  • Students should be encouraged to set down method working, whether using a calculator or not.  Answers only are rarely acceptable.
  • Care must be taken when students are using basic calculators as the order of operations is not always in-built (BODMAS).  New scientific calculators which most of our students purchase at the start of Year 7 often do calculations in the order they are entered e.g. sine 30, Ö50 …


  • When referring to decimals, say “three point one four” rather than “three point fourteen”.
  • In a line of working, an “equals” sign should appear only once.  Working should develop down the page, with equals signs in line (The following is poor practice:
    6 x (3 + 4) = 7 = 6 x 7 = 42, as students are equating unequal things.)
  • Emphasise the link between fractions, decimals, ratios and percentages.  The % button needs to be used with care.  Note, however, that the fraction button is very useful
  • The correct written form of numbers in standard form must be used, i.e. a calculator display of 1.576304   must be written as 1.5763 x 104


  • Take care when using terms like “cross multiply” and “swap sides – swap signs” as these can lead to misunderstandings.  Instead, use the balance method. (see a member of Mathematics Team for more detail.)
  • Running through a formula with “easy” numbers may aid student understanding.
  • Many formulas relating 3 quantities can be arranged as a triangle to help rearranging
  • Trial and improvement can be an acceptable mathematical method.

Shape Space and Measures

  • Appropriate units must always be stated; e.g. in answers, labelling the axes on graphs.
  • Try not to add to the confusion of mass and weight
  • Mass is a measure of the amount of substance and is measured in kg. 
  • We use the following language for bearings:
    bearings always start with 000o from North
    bearings are always measured clockwise
    bearings need the o (degree) symbol
    bearings need 3 figures.

Handling Data

  • Ensure gridlines are labelled rather than squares on axes, and the scale is correct, with
    0 " 1 given the same space as 1 " 2
  • Always use degrees when constructing pie charts; label sectors with the data or a key.
  • All graphs should have a title and labelled axes, with units marked.
  • When interpreting graphs, make sure students know what each “small square” represents on each axis.
  • Encourage students to always consider whether an information graph axis should or should not start from zero in a particular case; and the implication of this.
  • When using the term “average” please say “mean” (or mode or median).
  • Probabilities should be written as fractions, decimals or percentages and definitely not as “1 in 7” or “1 out of  7” or “1:7”.
  • Line graphs should be straight lines drawn with a ruler and pencil or smooth curves drawn with a pencil. 

April 2013