University of Limerick
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Investigating pre-service teachers’ knowledge of numeracy and their ability to teach numeracy for disciplinary learning

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posted on 2022-11-21, 12:52 authored by Kathy O’ Sullivan

Being numerate is an essential part of daily life and numeracy skills are required by everyone in order to engage fully in society. Governments and policymakers around  the globe have advocated that numeracy, referred to as mathematical literacy in some countries, is a lifelong skill which students should develop in school. Furthermore, in Ireland the government and Department of Education and Skills (DES) have specified that all teachers are required to teach for numeracy learning across the school curriculum. This is in an effort to ensure that the young people of Ireland have the necessary numeracy skills required to participate in society and contribute to the ever growing economy. Despite this requirement for teachers to teach for numeracy across the school curriculum, there is little of evidence of teachers embedding numeracy learning across different subject disciplines, which raises a concern. This study investigates the pre-requisite knowledge a teacher has and needs to acquire in order to implement teaching for numeracy learning in the classroom. 

This research aimed to (i) develop a framework of knowledge, known as the “N”  framework, required by pre-service teachers teach numeracy for disciplinary learning in their lessons and (ii) add to the existing literature on numeracy learning opportunities for pre-service teachers in their initial teacher education programmes.  Thus the research was conducted in two phases: a theoretical phase and an empirical  phase. The theoretical phase consisted of an extensive review of literature in the field  of teacher knowledge and numeracy which informed the development of the “N”  framework. The “N” framework captured the knowledge a teacher needs to possess in order to teach numeracy for disciplinary learning. The empirical study investigated pre-service post-primary teachers’ knowledge and understanding of the concept of numeracy, along with their experience of numeracy learning in their ITE programme and finally, their personal numeracy capabilities. The empirical study involved a questionnaire and follow up focus group interviews and individual interviews. Findings from the study with prospective teachers provided evidence of the different types of knowledge outlined in the “N” framework as Numeracy knowledge, Subject Specific knowledge and Pedagogical Content knowledge that a teacher requires to teach for numeracy learning. The results showed that teachers need to be given the opportunity to learn about the concept of numeracy, develop their own numeracy capabilities and thereafter, learn how to prepare to teach numeracy for disciplinary learning within their own subject discipline.  



  • Faculty of Education and Health Sciences


  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Niamh O’Meara

Second supervisor

Merrilyn Goos

Third supervisor

Paul Conway

Department or School

  • School of Education

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