So, having swung into action with raising awareness (see my previous story), myself and the rest of the Numeracy Team wanted to know how good our incoming students were at practical numeracy skills. That way, we could assess their needs and also have a way of demonstrating their progress while at college.
First things first - GCSE Maths grade is not a measure of numeracy skills. Too many x's and y's and graphs of functions and whatnot: it's possible to get a C in GCSE maths without answering any of the "real life" worded questions. We needed something they could do on arrival at College, which they could take online (so we didn't have to mark it) and that pitched itself at an appropriate level for College students (MyMaths, with its clipart pictures of funny professors, was just not the thing).
What we found was the National Numeracy Challenge (nnchallenge.org.uk). It's aimed at adults who want to improve their numeracy skills, it's available online, and it awards Entry, Bronze, Silver and Gold certificates. Getting a Gold is an excellent aspirational target - you have to get 95% on the test! All the questions are in an employment or life skills context and a variety of numeracy skills are used.
At that point, all we had to do was get every student into a computer room long enough to do it and record their scores . . . I'll spare you the semi-nightmarish logistical details, and summarise with "wasn't easy!". Students who scored gold were given a gold Numeracy Champion lanyard to replace their normal College lanyard. Many students found it challenging, but it gave them a much clearer idea of what numeracy is, and how it is different from the wider world of Maths - some of my AS Maths students were quite horrified to find that they weren't Gold medal level at numeracy (yet!).
I highly recommend it, whether it's something you might use at College or just something you might do for your own CPD. Whether you score highly or not, the National Numeracy Challenge will give you a great idea of what the core skills of numeracy are, and that might get you thinking about how they relate to your subject.
That reasoning led us to one of the Numeracy team's most controversial and interesting decisions so far - we made all teaching staff sit the Challenge! Not so we could monitor their results, but rather as part of an INSET. How much better was it for them to grapple with the problems themselves, rather than hear one of us waffle on for an hour about what numeracy is and what skills our students need?
As Aristotle said, we learn by doing - and I think that can be true of staff CPD as well as student learning.