Why Numeracy?

Why numeracy title image
Around the world, 250 million children either fail to complete more than three years of basic education or do so without acquiring adequate fundamental skills in literacy and numeracy. These children often lack basic numeracy skills such as measuring, estimating, and using simple mathematical operations to solve problems. Mathematical reasoning contributes to making children functionally literate, and this forms the basis for ongoing learning and meaningful participation in society.

The Challenge

The global crisis of mathematics mirrors that of the crisis in literacy, particularly in developing countries.  According to the Early Grade Mathematics Assessment Toolkit released in March 2014, “Data from large, cross-national mathematics studies (e.g., the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study [TIMSS]) have demonstrated that those countries lag behind the developed countries in mathematics performance.” (EGMA Toolkit 2014, p.1)

The following data further reveals that children are not mastering basic mathematics competencies:

  • 69% of Malawian second graders could not identify the number “6”. (EGMA Malawi 2010, p. 31)
  • Only 42.6% of students in Nicaragua could correctly identify numbers in grade 2. (EGMA Nicaragua 2011, p. 25)
  • Children who stay in school in Ghana take until grade 6 to reach basic mathematical competencies, compared to their peers in high-income countries who acquire these skills in grades 2 or 3. (Results for Learning Report 2012, p. 136)
  • In rural India, nearly 69% of students cannot recognize numbers past 9. (ASER 2013, p. 14)


The Connections between Reading and Mathematics

Research from 2007 by Dr. Greg J. Duncan suggests that school readiness in mathematics impacts how students perform in reading, and is even a stronger predictor of how students will perform in reading than school readiness in reading.  Therefore, early mathematics instruction is instrumental in ensuring children perform well in both reading and numeracy later in life. Learn more through this EdBit by Deepa Srikantaiah on "How Do Early Math Skills Impact Learning to Read?"

The Numeracy Community of Practice

The Numeracy Community of Practice (CoP) is dedicated to raising awareness of numeracy education in low income countries and showcasing numeracy-related work being done by stakeholders around the world. The CoP provides a platform for members to discuss early grade mathematics assessments, classroom interventions, parent and community engagement, and national and international policy dialogues on early grade mathematics.

The Numeracy Community of Practice is managed jointly by Save the Children and Research Trianagle International.



Goal One of the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) 2011 Education Strategy focuses on improving reading skills.  However, as the Global Reading Network website is intended to support the global community working to improve learning outcomes, we have joined with the Numeracy Community of Practice to provide numeracy resources on the Network’s website. These resources may be found on the Tools & Training page.