Numeracy Development Initiative (NDI)

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What is the Numeracy Development Initiative (NDI)? 

The Numeracy Development Initiative (NDI) works with instructors to support projects that integrate instruction and learning activities on numeracy (quantitative literacy) into core courses across the curriculum. A large portion of the support takes the form of supplemental TA hours, allowing for additional training in the delivery of the quantitative literacy instructional activities and assessment within the boundaries of a course.

  • Objective: To help students gain and improve their ability and confidence to employ quantitative reasoning skills which include mathematical, computational or statistical approaches, when engaging with specific course content, as well as beyond.
     
  • Core Message: Funds are available to support Departments and Institutes that would like to develop and deliver innovative activities, workshops, tasks, or other interventions designed to support students in quantitative literacy at the undergraduate level.

Background 

Many UTM students lack both the confidence and the required skills to adequately engage with quantitative information within their coursework and in their everyday lives. Compelling evidence suggests that this lack of numeracy skills is a nationwide problem. For example, the Conference Board of Canada (2014) reports that 55% of Canadian adults have inadequate numeracy skills and argues strongly and convincingly that this problem needs to be addressed and remedied.

UTM’s Academic Plan and Implementation Plan have both identified “numeracy” as a key priority. One of the goals outlined in UTM’s Academic Plan (2017) is to “inspire student success by supporting a rigorous and innovative academic environment.” To achieve this goal, UTM has committed to focus on strategies for “developing students communication skills from foundational to advanced levels (written, numerical, analytical, oral, and visual)”.  Accordingly, the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre (RGASC) and the Office of the Dean are developing opportunities for Departments and course instructors to pursue projects which will address quantitative literacy within undergraduate courses.

Some key areas of quantitative literacy (quantitative proficiency) targeted in these funded projects include:

  • reasoning about size, numbers, and quantities;
  • generating, gathering, analyzing and understanding data;
  • experimenting with numbers (e.g., simulations);
  • communicating quantitative information in oral and written form;
  • understanding patterns of change (linear, proportional, exponential, periodic, and so on);
  • logical reasoning and identifying logical flaws in arguments; and
  • probabilistic reasoning and interpreting information obtained by statistical tools.

We believe that Departments are aware of the challenges their students face and of the contexts of numeracy (quantitative literacy) that are present within each course and program of study. Therefore, course instructors are encouraged to submit proposals for projects that will help students enhance their quantitative literacy skills within their disciplines.

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Application Process & Documents

Deadlines

  • Proposals for new projects should be submitted as a Word document to Andie Burazin at a.burazin@utoronto.ca by April 19th, 2019.

Funding Decisions

Decisions on funding will be made by June 14th, 2019. Funding for projects is determined in part by the number of students enrolled in the target course(s). 

Please review the following before submitting an application:

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RGASC Support for Successful Proposals

The RGASC can offer a variety of programming and services for instructors participating in the NDI. Support for students includes:

  • discipline-specific numeracy instruction (scheduling during or outside of class);
  • course-specific drop-in sessions (no appointment needed) help sessions for students who need numeracy–related academic support

Our Numeracy Specialist and our Educational Developer can support course instructors with:

  • suggestions for assessment design;
  • guidance and support for classroom instruction; and
  • activities that can make their classes more inclusive and accessible for students from diverse numeracy backgrounds.

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TA Training

As much of the additional numeracy work and instruction that the NDI supports will likely be done by TAs, the RGASC will offer training and support to assist them, and also to provide them with valuable professional development. The NDI will provide funding for up to 4 hours of additional training per TA. The precise focus of the training (e.g., pedagogical strategies or lesson preparation) and number of hours offered will be determined by the Numeracy Specialist in consultation with the course instructor, if appropriate. Course instructors need to ensure that all of the TAs participating in this initiative will be available for a maximum of four hours of training.

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Assessment of Successful Proposals

It is crucial to measure the efficacy of successful proposals. Assessment provides clear evidence of the value of the instruction; it guides instructors and other stakeholders in their ongoing reflection on, and efforts to improve, the support that students are given; and it provides data for ongoing research into pedagogy and context related numeracy support in the disciplines.

Basic assessment will, at a minimum, include the following three elements:

  1. Assessment of any changes in students’ quantitative literacy skills with short pre- and post-quizzes. These quizzes will be designed by the Numeracy Specialist in consultation with the course instructors and administered in labs or tutorials.
  2. Pre- and post-surveys of students’ self-reported attitudes and beliefs about the techniques or skills taught in the intervention, and about their own quantitative literacy.
  3. TAs’ and course instructors’ reflective assessments of the project and their observations about the changes in their students’ quantitative literacy skills or attitudes. These will be collected through a short questionnaire. 

A Final Report template will be provided to course instructors to document the details of the assessment of, reflection on, and changes to the project. Final reports for 2019-2020 projects will be due by May 31st, 2020.

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Example of NDI Applied in a Course

To assist potential applicants in imagining their project, we are including the following example.

In both first-year and second-year physics courses, optional workshop-style sessions are held twice per week in alignment with key mathematical concepts that are presented in the course (this is sometimes called just-in-time delivery). These sessions are designed to support students in reviewing, learning and gaining practice with mathematical concepts they need in the course and, very often, in their future physics studies as well. The first session in each week focuses on necessary mathematical techniques and/or routines; this includes a short explanation followed by students’ collaborative work on exercises and problems to solidify their understanding of the material. The second session ties the mathematical techniques and routines to the physics concepts discussed in the course. These sessions help students not only better understand underlying mathematics, but also facilitate deeper insights into physics concepts and ideas in the course.

Students have the option to attend these sessions during the term. As well, the final exam reviews sessions are offered shortly before the final exam. Students do not have to prepare for the sessions, and there are no assessments that count toward the course grade.

Short anonymous pre- and post- feedback questionnaires are administered to the students, inquiring about their experiences, attitudes and beliefs about the support sessions. The feedback provides a measure as to how effective the sessions were towards helping the students succeed in their physics courses.

Note that the above is just an example of a project that has worked in the past. There are, of course, many other approaches that could work in different contexts. Please contact the Numeracy Specialist (see contact information below) to discuss your specific needs and objectives.

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Questions about the NDI?

Andie Burazin, Numeracy Specialist, would be happy to discuss the kind of support most appropriate for the students in your course. Please contact Andie by email at a.burazin@utoronto.ca.

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