Common European Numeracy Framework

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Numeracy and Awareness


The objective of this module is to discuss challenges regarding numeracy awareness in our daily lives where numeracy is pertinent. The table in the background information summarizes the main challenges related to numeracy awareness embedded in the different social contexts of our lives.

The fact that numeracy in real life is often presented to us in an invisible way (implicit, embedded) represents a challenge for adult teachers who design the lessons, study programs and evaluation and assessment instruments (and for the authorities who design adult education standards). It is also a challenge for adults themselves since the “invisibility” of mathematics in certain situations is related to action dispositions such as “using intuition,” “beliefs,” and “emotional decisions” instead of using mathematical reasoning to solve problems and/or make decisions (like when I buy a lottery ticket because it coincides with my date of birth, without thinking that any ticket has the same probability of winning).

The objects that appear in the “mathematics knowledge and skills” facet in the CENF framework can be visible or invisible (embedded in the human practices of our societies). But in all cases, they are equally mathematical. Just because some practices are “common sense” does not mean they are any less mathematical.



  • The numeracy that is embedded in situations is not always visible to people or isn’t regarded as mathematics or numeracy
  • The numeracy activities people undertake are not always recognised as mathematics.
  • A important part of strengthening the numeracy competencies of learners is to make the “invisible” mathematics visible in situations and in their own actions.



Discussing personal experiences

Ask people to focus on a recent and regular day in their own life. Let them write down the numeracy decision they made from waking up in the morning to going to bed in the evening. Let people pair and share the results. Discuss how many numeracy decisions a citizen takes on average on a daily basis. 

Numeracy all around you

Ask participants to clear their minds and take in a quick presentation. Show the participants a PowerPoint with 60-80 numeracy situations at a speed of 2 seconds per sheet (takes slightly over two minutes). Ask participants what comes to their mind when they see the presentation. Collect the findings and summarize.

Home, society and work

Ask participants to describe what are typical numeracy situations in daily life at home, in societal life, in work related situations. How distinctive are the situations or do the participants experience a big overlap?



Bakker, A., Hoyles, C., Kent, P., & Noss, R. (2006). Improving work processes by making the invisible visible. Journal of Education and Work, 19(4), 343–361.

Coben, D. (2000). Mathematics or Common Sense? Researching ‘Invisible’ Mathematics through Adults’ Mathematics Life Histories. In D. Coben, J. O’Donoghue, & G. E. Fitzsimons (Eds.), Perspectives on Adults Learning Mathematics (pp. 53–66). Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Díez-Palomar, J., Ramis-Salas, M., Močnik, I., Simonič, M., & Hoogland, K. (2023). Challenges for numeracy awareness in the 21st century: making visible the invisible. Frontiers in Education, 8.

Hoogland, K. (2023). The changing nature of basic skills in numeracy. Frontiers in Education, 8.