Financial Literacy – a part of Numeracy or to sit on its own?

A Kids Road to Financial Literacy

This has been the question that I have been pondering in my mind for the past week or so.

What Financial Literacy is defined by Commission For Financial Literacy and Retirement Literacy (

Financial literacy is defined as the ability to make informed judgements and make effective decisions regarding the use and management of money. It is about having financial knowledge and having the understanding, confidence and motivation to make financial judgements and decisions.

That definition implies to myself that students to be able to reasonable skills in numerical, spatial, quantitative, and statistical strands of Mathematics. But for them to be functioning in ” Financial Literacy” ( I do not want to use the term fluent because it might conjure up ideas of accountants, portfolio management advisers, etc. and complexity of knowledge is not required to make everyday effective judgements with money) they need to be have the equivalent to NZC Level 4/5 but it is the contexts that students learn how to imply those skills that make the difference to how the translate them over to their emerging life.  The NZC have stated what they believe is required for NZ students to be financial capable (

However, is this level of functionality/capability what parents are wanting an answer to when they come to Parents’ Night asking “How is little Johnny doing in Maths?”…..Probably not!  They are more than wanting your answer to how their child is progressing in “pure” mathematics. I look at numeracy as a building block to pure maths along with a student being fluent in problem solving, critical thinking, communication, and visual literacy.

Pure Maths – focuses on the discipline of mathematics

  • Applications are important but they do not (necessarily)  have to be real world context
  • Skills/and contexts become more complex/advance
  • Success criteria are designed to enable learners to handle the hierarchy complexity of skills/contexts in other disciplines.

Numeracy – focuses on the role of mathematics in the real world

  • Relevant, currant contexts are used
  • Contexts become more complex while skills stay basic
  • Success criteria are designed to enable learners to handle with confidence the mathematics that affects their lives

It is the last two bullet points in the breakdown of Numeracy that I believe Financial Literacy should be the continuation to Numeracy.  Where being fluent in Numeracy requires students to be functional in numerate skills but can imply those skills to the context of real world situation when it comes to managing money and the risks associated with those situations.

Perhaps our conversations with parents should be switching from the progression of their child in “pure” mathematics but their progression in numeracy?  Just look at the quote I pulled from TKI (

The 18-24 age group has one of the lowest levels of financial literacy in New Zealand. Those of school age are likely to be even less knowledgeable due to their dependent status, and lack of exposure to many aspects of financial decision-making. Young people increasingly have to make decisions that involve finances earlier in life than previous generations had to.



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